Think of Shoreditch and think of meat by the bucketfull, pop-up stalls in car parks, hotels selling coffee, and a mile of Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road.
The idea of fine dining is something held further north amongst the pushchairs of Angel or further South amongst the suits of Moorgate. But there are actually plenty of places offering polished silver, black shirted waiters, proper wooden tables, and natural light – Eyre Brothers is one such place. A smart Iberian (read tapas) restaurant on Leonard Street, you’re best visiting when someone else is paying and when you’ve planned a stereotypically Spanish afternoon.
Visiting at lunchtime and hearing a pin or two drop in the restaurant, the bar seems the best place for this agoraphobe. Here you can choose from a short tapas menu that features such delights as slow cooked pig cheeks in red wine. The desire to simply stop there and order five of those dishes is a difficult one to repress, but then they do also have casseroled belly pork two rungs down, so it’s a good idea to read on.
The meal can be slightly stodgy if you order before the bread basket arrives. The small white rolls are moorish and perfect for wiping around the finished casseroles, soaking up every last drop of the fatty, tomatoey, garlicky goodness. Even after the sobrasada (pork paste on toast) and the pa amb tomaquet (tomatoes on toast), just one more roll was needed to finish wiping each dish clean.
Pork isn’t actually mandatory at Eyre Brothers and the delicate anchovies, fried peppers, and prawns provided a good palate cleanser between each mouthful of meat. As does a small sip of sherry – that afternoon siesta looking ever more tempting. The prawns arrived nestled between strands of green plants, which I managed to knock deftly aside.
I presume this garnish was purely decorative. The boquerones (anchovies) were slightly more challenging, my fat clumsy fingers struggling to retrieve the breakable fish without picking up the accompanying garlic and walnuts – both non-meats, but they tasted surprisingly good.
A place like Eyre Brothers, with it’s refined dishes, crisp white napkins, and lack of craft ale shows that Shoreditch can offer cuisine above that of the half-foot burger, the bucket of diablo wings, and child-sized steak. It’s a taste of things to come, possibly, as the suits from the City edge ever closer to the trendy trendy streets of Silicon Roundabout.