Cub is like no restaurant in London, or the UK, actually. From the brains of drinks maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana (his bar, Dandelyan, was named the World’s Best Cocktail Bar at the 2017 Spirited Awards in New Orleans earlier this year, and number 2 in the world at 50 Best Bar Awards 2017), and zero-waste chef and restaurateur Doug McMaster (of Brighton’s Silo), the “drinks-led dining experience” opened in Hoxton this autumn.
Taking over the upstairs of Ryan’s former (revolutionary) White Lyan bar – which was famed for its no-waste, no-ice policy – Cub is made up of cosy mustard booths (be prepared to share), tables made of recycled yogurt pots, and paper mulch and cork pendant lights. The old bar is now shared with the kitchen team from which a bargain £45 set menu of five food courses and five drink courses are made. You can order singular “good things” to eat and drink, but don’t. Go all out.
Staff share the concept well, and explain every course with enthusiasm (even if they don’t always deliver the details quite right). This isn’t a traditional drinks pairing, each course, food and drink, leads onto, and prepares the palate, for the next. It’s challenging in places (an opening coupe glass of Krug champagne is marred by a contact-lens-like water jelly spiked with a single piece of cress) but exciting when it works.
Dish number three, chervil root (as soft as boiled potatoes) with an almost nutty, celery-like flavour comes bathed in ‘turbo’ super-reduced whey with miso – salty, umami – and scale-like slithers of a striking (in appearance and flavour) red flesh apple. Another called “shrooms on shrooms” sees baby king oyster mushrooms fermented in duxelles, as a broth, roasted and raw. It’s incredible.
A long drink of greengage, vodka, chamomile and cider vermouth is refreshing, aromatic and unexpected, in a good way. Square Mile Coffee with cognac and peach is excitingly multidimensional – it’s been designed to taste different depending on who you are and what you’ve tasted during the night – there’s notes of mint, chilli and szechuan pepper with every gulp.
It could feel a bit worthy but there are playful touches, too – go to the loo to find those. But mostly it’s low waste, high flavour, and beautifully light.