Cub, London N1: restaurant and bar review
Head to Hoxton for pioneering drinks-lead dining from one of the world’s most acclaimed bartenders and one of Britain’s most sustainable chefs
Cub, London in a nutshell
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.
Where is it? 153 Hoxton Street. Nearest tube: Hoxton overground station
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.
Good value for serious innovation.
Cub bar review
What’s the vibe?
The bar at Cub is very much part of the restaurant, with a narrow marble counter overlooking the prep area where Ryan and his team mix cocktails, pour drinks and assemble intricate dishes. This results in an immersive, sensory drinking experience – tempting aromas constantly waft through the space, teasing diners with what’s to come and luring those just staying for cocktails into trading up for the full tasting.
What’s the drinks menu like?
Short, succinct and perfectly formed. The drinks menu is designed to progress through the evening, with snappy starters, sparkling aperitifs, punchy short digestifs and unusual wines.
Which cocktail to order at CUB
The short and bright martini is a must to kick off the evening, made with Lyan gin and distillates of nocellara olives and citrussy vermouth, served super cold.
Single-malt Scotch whisky is combined with the rich, golden flavours of GoldRush apples and koji grains from Kanpai sake brewery (listen to our podcast with Kanpai here). Finished with an apple slice, coated in hibiscus syrup then dehydrated, this is a menu must-order.
For something sparkling, go for Ryan’s Krug cocktail. He re-ferments Krug Grande Cuvée to remove the alcohol and combines it with distillates of jasmine and orange in a little jelly tablet, topped up with a generous glug of fresh Krug to create a posh take on bubble tea.
Is there any food? As mentioned above, it’s best to enjoy the whole food and drink experience at Cub as Ryan and his team have expertly tailored the menu to take care of every last dining detail. However, if you just want a snack the bread and butter is top notch – we licked our leftover Hudderston crème fraîche butter (aged in-house) off the spoon!
Insider tip: Another of Ryan’s cocktail bars, Super Lyan, is downstairs – there’s a secret adjoining entrance so pop down to this drinking den for a night cap.
Where to go nearby for dinner: You can, of course, stay put for dinner but if you want a change of scene the Vietnamese restaurants of Kingsland Road are within crawling distance – pop in to Mien Tay for uber-crisp frilly spring rolls. For something a bit more fancy, supper club-turned acclaimed restaurant The Clove Club is a five-minute walk away.
Words by Laura Rowe, October 2017, bar review words by Alex Crossley, March 2018
Photos by Kim Lightbody