In a nutshell
Set up in a former Victorian fruit and veg wholesaler’s premises, known by the same name, restaurant and bar Arthur Hooper’s celebrates what once was with innovative fruit- and veg-centric European small plates, with ingredients sourced from and via the market on its doorstep.
Under arches, on the periphery of London’s Borough Market, Arthur Hooper’s small restaurant and bar spills outside to a seating area facing energetic street vendors and the general market area. Inside its tall ceilings, illuminated floor-to-ceiling glass cupboards, cool grey and black walls and dimly lit decor sets the scene. Black banquette seating with separate tables are surrounded by high tables and chairs, while at the corner bar you can grab a drink or dinner.
Having cut her teeth at London Italian minimalist restaurant Zucca, chef Lale Oztek‘s menu suits the venue to a tee with a selection of 15 or so small plates divided into meat, fish and vegetables with the latter holding the most options and variety, as well as permanent cheese and cured meats plates and ‘bites’; buttery Nocellara olives, Vinci olives, smoked almonds, and a short specials board.
The cheese and cured meats plates (pictured above) serve two-three slices of each with a couple of pieces of crostini and a pickle or chutney made in house. There’s a choice of four cheeses and the same number of meats, and the selection is a cut above the norm: we had Welsh blue cheese Perl Las and a Welsh salami-like lamb merguez.
Each plate is described through three key ingredients and the simplicity, freshness and seemingly effortless co-ordination of core favourites, like Kentish asparagus and Cornish spring greens, with more interesting bits like Androuet goat’s curd and fregola – Sardinian pellet-sized pasta – really works.
Changing around four times a season, the menu takes into account what’s available in Borough Market and includes a wine list detailing mostly European wines with some interesting choices from Slovenia and Portugal.
For our first round of plates between two we had the cured meat selection, which is an array of the cured meats you could buy separately (you can also get a selection of the cheese available in the same way), with a panzanella made with beautiful, multi-coloured Isle of Wight heritage tomatoes from the specials board and the beef carpaccio, salsa verde, capezzana olive oil.
The cured meat selection comprised of copper gran riserva, pale, fatty and sweet hot smoked pork belly, a subtle tasting bresaola from Italy and the lamb merguez, all served at the perfect temperature with sweet, lightly pickled cucumbers, balsamic-covered pickled onions and crostini, all brought to another flavour level by a bottle of dry, plummy 2015 Primitivo di Puglia.
The Gower clams, ’nduja, turnip tops is also something special. The mix of the spicy sausage (similar to chorizo) and strong-tasting but soft and delicate turnip tops with the salty, moist shellfish made our night.
It’s important to get your timing right here. Being a restaurant and bar the size of the average living room/kitchen, Arthur Hooper’s can get rowdy around office kick-out time, especially on a Friday. The difference between 6.30pm and 7pm was like being in two different restaurants, with the later time being the more relaxing, mellow time to go for.
Price range: Mid-range.
Words | Liz O’Keefe, July 2017. www.arthurhoopers.co.uk
Photographs | Arthur Hopper