To find a location as entirely unlikely for a restaurant like Sparrow, I have to go back in the mists of the moment when, in a remarkably prescient development of the property, formerly the Bethnal Green Town Hall was transformed into a 5-star hotel and welcomed the Viajante de Nuno Mendes. Even now, Cambridge Heath is not an area of the city, you would walk around with pleasure after sunset; at the time (in 2010), it was even more spicy, the road to the train station involving a rather intimidating walk after the car mechanics embarked and a strip club. In fact, I think it could still be there. But now, with Bethnal Green and Paradise Garage in the south, and the Marksman and Morito in the West along Hackney Road, it does not resemble also a strange place for your dinner.
With that in mind, I have the impression that the brains behind Sparrow know exactly what they are doing. Lewisham may never be the most beautiful neighborhood in London, but there are blocks of high-rise residential apartments that pull faster than asparagus from the new season, and excellent transportation links (I starts to look like a bloody realtor) mean that even if it is not obvious to meet for a drink before dinner (although the Wetherspoons make a good selection of craft beers), you can at least have a cocktail in town before jumping on the DLR.
Yet, it is a shock to the system when you first see the place. Under the brutalist look of the Lewisham Mall, on what is essentially a small part of the A20 / A21 tournament, next to four lanes, this is not where many people think of placing a modern British restaurant , and yet there is nervous and trembling as trucks and buses pass. Inside, fortunately, it is a little less than a bus stop that the first appearances suggest, but the large windows without ornaments offer a small shield against the faces of eating in a slip and , when the entrance door opens, there is little protection against the audio either.
The food, however, is good. The bruchettas of mushrooms and zucchini are a warm Italian dish, well seasoned and with a little goat cheese on top to lift them.
The salad of shrimp and roe deer was also adorable, colorful and crisp and with a salted-citrussy bandage that tied together beautifully.
The best of the small plates was the boiled eggs and the taste of anchovy, an incredibly smart and sweet little snack that was the rarest of things – really nice and (as far as I know) really innovative, nothing more I've tried before. It was not just about feasting that impressed (which was a bit like a big cauda of bagna), but the quality of the eggs (just look at that yellow) and the little puffs crispy shallots that added a nice touch of texture. A perfect little dish, and one that would not be at all irrelevant in the St John menu, where the Sparrow team cut its teeth.
I am not the biggest fan of risotto in the world (you have prepared rice, well done), so I enjoyed this next dish as much as I probably made it say that anyone pre -disposed to bowls of rice al-dente would be the head on the heels with it. Indeed, it seemed the rest of my table.
And finally smaller plates, "tulips" chicken fried with satay sauce. I'm not sure what looked like the tulip, it seemed like a normal sweat to me, and the satay sauce was good, but familiar to the point of packet lunch. In addition, coating on the chicken required much more seasoning; That was pretty flawed, and compared to what had come before, strangely non-adventurous. I mean, fried chicken and satay sauce Do we fuck?
In fact, the same criticisms – a slightly clumsy approach associated with rather unavoidable ingredients – could be leveled in most meal dishes. There was not much trouble with how this pork wind was cooked – the skin was a little chewy but seasoned properly, and the flesh was beautiful and moist – it felt a bit like the kind of thing that you've seen a thousand times before and pubs up and down the country. Harissa is not a particularly inspiring accompaniment either.
The "malt duck" sounded intriguing enough on paper, but turned out to be a fairly standard duck leg (not sure what was supposed to be nasty), with sagging skin and a few pieces of braised chicory. Well, you know, but directly on the plain.
And there was definitely a lot of that next dish, but again, we could not say what was "bang bang" about it, just that it was a huge amount of under – conditioned cow (and pretty sub-cultivated) that none of us could really be bothered to finish. A couple of pieces of eggplant wrapped around the bottom of the bowl were not enough to distract us either.
However, the cheeses were good, especially the cheddar from the island of Mull, which had a complexity of flavor almost County.
Agree, the biggest meat and dessert area have been a bit disappointing, and I can not give them a very easy ride for this – these, after all, make up the bulk of the meal. But enough went well with the smallest plates that made me think that if Sparrow focuses on where his strengths are, that is, lighter dishes where vegetables are the main ingredients, they will very quickly hit a winning formula. The ups and downs of this new and brave new restaurant are, I'm sure, just dental pain from a kitchen that has not quite understood their audience and are trying to be all all. Unfortunately for them, there is no model for a modern British restaurant on a two-way flyover to Lewisham; the picturesque are not easy.
So I wish them the best for the next crucial months, and, just to have the pure brass balls to open something here, I will give them the benefit of the doubt on the final score. No, of course, they are not perfect, but there is a very good chance that one day they can be at least much better, and for that reason Londoners – and especially everyone at that bizarre jungle piece of concrete in SE13 – have much to expect.