Last Updated on March 19, 2013 by Fiona Maclean
Top Floor Dining – Smiths of Smithfields
Smiths, on the edge of Smithfields Meat Market, was one of the first of a new wave of restaurants in London to embrace British food. It opened fourteen years ago, in a building that had been empty for over 40 years. At the time, the New York warehouse style was quite unique in the London restaurant world and the location, while not isolated, was slightly off centre of mainstream. A testament to the original design, much still remains and is none the worse for wear. And, as I alluded to at the start, the venue is still busy.
I was fascinated to learn though that their suppliers are generally not from Smithfields Meat Market. Instead, they’ve build up a strong relationship with small businesses and buy direct from farms, fand specialist fish and meat suppliers.
Our lunch in the top floor restaurant was part of my current mission to find places to eat in London which really do make use of British produce and serve a British menu. While my friends from outside the UK now seem to be gradually recognising that London has a vibrant and exciting restaurant scene, they haven’t yet found those corners of the Capital where you can enjoy really good British food. And yes, of course I’m not trying to pretend our cuisine is anything but hybrid. I’d defy anyone to name a strong culinary heritage that isn’t. In the case of British food it goes back as far at least as far as Roman days. And, is all the stronger for the various influences over the centuries that are now embraced into a British Culinary Heritage.
Going up to the top floor gives a feeling of walking from chaos into calm, in the nicest possible way. The downstairs café at Smiths is always frenetic and even the first floor cocktail bar and second floor dining room can be a little busy. But, the top floor, with splendid terrace and roof top views over the city of London is an oasis of white calm and tranquillity.
My Colchester Rock Oysters, Red Wine & Shallot Vinegar were fabulously plump and fresh. In all honesty the dressing was unnecessary – more because the oysters were great with just a little lemon than because it was in any way lacking. But my companion’s raw shorthorn fillet with truffle dressing and rocket was the star act, a really beautiful mixture of carpaccio and a kind of beef tartare with a delicate dressing.
For my main course, I picked Yorkshire red deer, pleading cholesterol problems to my companion who wanted the same dish. Venison, particularly good quality wild venison, is one of the few healthy red meats. To be honest, when it arrived I wouldn’t have cared if it was healthy or not, because it was delicious and immaculately cooked. Served with beetroot, dauphinoise, onions and merlot sauce this was British food with a continental influence at its best.
My companion picked the Limonsin 41 day dry aged sirloin. Now, is that cheating? I don’t know. The Limonsin breed is from France, though they are now bred in the UK, and the supplier was Petherwick Weo and Son from Oakhampton in Essex. My friend was just a little too busy eating to make much in the way of comment and having picked his first choice, I certainly wasn’t going to be offered a taste!
Too full for dessert, we enjoyed coffee and artisan petit fours. We could have chosen from a British cheese board or enjoyed Apple Crumble, William Pear Tart or Rhubarb Trifle.
Smiths has a relatively simple and straightforward menu that works exceptionally well because of the sourcing. Excellent British produce served carefully but without being overly fussy. Prices are middling high, about right for this type of restaurant with the excellent sourcing making it all seem quite a bargin. My Venison for example was £25. An easy place to enjoy and a great place to experience the Best of British.
We dined as guests of Smiths of Smithfield
Top Floor Dining Room
Smiths of Smithfields
67-77 Charterhouse St
London, UK EC1M 6HJ