Freshly opened from the team behind Michelin-starred banger The Clove Club (ironically just a hop, skip and a jump away) I’m completely stumped with what to order when I see the creativity of the menu at new baby brother, Two Lights Shoreditch.
Usually it’s singularly obvious at first glance what appeals and what doesn’t; but in this instance, everything intrigues me.
Off-beat flavour pairings preen and tantalise with dishes such as flamed mackerel, bacon fat and watercress (hold your horses, we’ll get to it…)
Decor complies with the now-obligatory hipster style indigenous to Shoreditch – it kind of feels like you’re in the dining room of that buddy who went to film school.
Crab on Beef Fat Chips
I’ve always avoided crab as I equate it with all looks and no taste (ie. all big and red and impressive-looking, til you get to the miniscule, often-bland shreds inside) yet something about the crab chips whispers to give it another shot.
Two amber slabs of triple-cooked spuds glare back at me, accepting the challenge. Here we go. Crunch. Ahhhhh.
The union of beef fat with potato evokes a comforting joie de vivre, while the sharp sourness of pickle sluices through any potential for over-richness, rendering the entire offering anything but boring despite the presence of the dreaded crustacean.
I can safely say I’ve finally been converted to order crab next time I see it on the menu…. here and only here.
Wait, what’s that other dish in the picture? That friends, is the Sardine Katsu Sandwich.
I don’t love offal, so I’m a bit ambivalent of the fins jutting out (gingerly lifting up the bread to check for a head – not there, phew).
After one bite, I’m prepared to eat both tail and my words.
The salty sardine has been crumbed and deep-fried with a tangy mayo that promises heaven for a hangover – and in the devil’s playground that is Shoreditch, there’s plenty the market for that.
I should mention the surroundings of the establishment. Nestled down the grimy end of the high street, the location is home to a hotbed of activity: You can watch trains whiz by the bridge overhead, drivers getting stuck fast through the labyrinth-like back streets of East London and police cars squealing past dramatically.
My view also includes a bus stop, so passengers have no choice but to yield to a mukbang experience, starring: Me.
Flamed Mackerel, Bacon Fat, Watercress
This is the one we’ve been waiting for! The knife glides therapeutically through the buttery soft flesh of the mackerel. Yeeeeeees.
The bacon fat isn’t obviously discernible, but the fish does taste a little more full-bodied than if it were just pure sashimi.
The watercress adds a squeaky cleanliness with a tinge of salt on the end notes.
Onto the main – Stuffed Guinea Fowl, Broccoli and Yuzu, which the chef has cleverly suggested pairing with Tarragon-dressed lettuce and puffed black quinoa.
While it may not have the instant gratification effect of the previous three entrées, the balancing game comes into play here. The earthiness of the protein is interspersed with citrusy yuzu which is then offset by fresh, salty notes from the lettuce.
The broccoli has been done two ways – first slow-cooked to retain texture, while the second is a rapidly cooked-down puree holding a deeper concentration of flavour.
This is a dish I’d be more than happy with as a main – but since the bar has now been set so high, it didn’t have the ‘Lose Your Sh*t‘ effect like the previous three dishes did.
This is where personal taste and preference comes in – however with each bite I come to like it more and more, which I suppose is much better than growing tired of a dish while eating it.
The food does the talking here, and talk it does well. I love the Japanese element to each dish – whether it’s Yuzu or Katsu – which heightens and adds dimension.
Apart from the main course, portion sizes aren’t especially substantial, even for starters – however this is made up for in punchiness of flavour.
Yes, I’m sold. Two Lights Shoreditch: Welcome to my Google Maps favourites list.