Flor, London SE1: restaurant review
Does a regular diner reach the same conclusion about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Critic Laura Rowe and olive reader Daniel Lane compare notes on the new wine bar/bakery/restaurant from the team behind the internationally acclaimed Lyle’s
About Flor, London
The second opening from chef James Lowe and business partner John Ogier, Flor opened in July to much fanfare. The decidedly different follow-up to Lyle’s, which has become renowned for redefining London’s fine-dining scene, where baseball caps and trainers are more likely to be spotted than suits or heels, this latest venture on the fringe of Borough Market has been billed as a wine bar/bakery/restaurant hybrid.
Inspired by the buvettes of Paris and pintxos bars of San Sebastián, the small space is set over two floors. There’s counter dining overlooking the tiny kitchen and tables for two downstairs, and group tables and booths for around 20 upstairs, via a spiral, wrought-iron staircase, with dramatic tall windows looking across to the railway arch and market.
Natural wines dominate the wine list, there are homemade pastries (including the likes of lardy buns) available from 10am, and come lunch and dinner there’s a menu of small plates that focus on good ingredients from here and abroad. As such, the menu at this multitasking space changes daily, but Instagram will tell you that the must-orders are prawns – heads served roasted and ready decapitated from their bodies, which come raw with yuzu kosho – and flatbreads heavy with cheese or truffle.
The pro restaurant reviewer
Our editor Laura Rowe has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lauraroweeats.
The punter restaurant reviewer
Daniel Lane lives in London and eats out twice a week. He loves fresh shellfish, and his best dining experience was at 64 Degrees in Brighton.
Our pro's Flor, London restaurant review…
Flor is hard to get into at dinner (you’ll need to book weeks in advance), but as soon as you do sit down, and are handed your first glass of perfectly chilled, scrumpy-esque Slovenian orange wine (Nando Rebula), you’ll understand why. *I wasn’t recognised.
An oyster arrives poorly shucked and gritty but the salinity is a good pairing for the peppy jalapeño mignonette. Far better is anchovy toast lusciously topped with noir de bigorre lardo. Flatbread – nutty, pillowy and blistered – comes topped with salty-sweet palourde clams, garlic and Spenwood sheep’s milk cheese. Austrian rosé (Winifred) wows with its delicate notes of raspberry and mint.
Skewers of rabbit kidneys and liver, so sweet and tender, are just kissed by the coals they were cooked on and show the skill of the kitchen below. Anjou pigeon is the priciest plate (£25) but is worth every penny. Golden crisp skin, ruddy, soft flesh, sensational seasoning, and tiny white currants that collapse into a ready-made sweet-sour sauce would be enough but it also comes served with toast, cooked in fat, topped with piped parfait, on the side. Another, lamb rib, sees its sweet, melting fat imaginatively matched with buttery pistachios and deep dried lime.
Skip the pretty “Neapolitan” dessert of tayberry, peach and verbena ice cream – it’s style over substance – and save room for a cucumber-melon hybrid, barattiere. It comes with a cocksure dressing – spicy, sweet and salty, but also floral and refreshing. Finish with double order of the highlight of the meal, brown butter cakes which arrive as a crunchy mouthful with a salted, fudgy heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re a fan of funky wines, the smell of baking bread while you order, and small plates that will having you licking the plates clean, then Flor is going to be a bit of you.
Total bill for two, excluding service: £119
Our punter's Flor, London restaurant review…
It shouldn’t be possible to serve food that interesting in a room that tiny, but somehow chef James Lowe and co manage it, letting the bijou space inform a menu of no-nonsense small plates at the slim marble bar or perched at a snug table. The matey side of professional, our servers made sure we knew our brandades from our koshos, and helpfully gushed about their top picks.
The wild boar ventricina set the Mediterranean tone. Its peppery, grown-up chorizo flavour sat well alongside a few glasses of the Tutti Frutti Ananas Nespola (fruity and ready to tackle the saltier dishes). With a creamy pollock brandade and vinegary peppers arriving, I could easily have been on a terraza overlooking the coast.
Three scarlet prawns with yuzu kosho came next. The salty, fatty indulgence of the head complemented the raw body’s refined, delicate ceviche vibes. If any dish typified the place, this was it – no ego, just an intimate understanding of quality ingredients.
Meltingly soft lamb rib broke up the southern European party with Middle Eastern spices, pistachios and a burnt-lime tang. Slightly sour boysenberries did the same for the pigeon, giving off a Scandi feel.
Every so often I heard an “oh my god” or a moan around the room. When our brown butter cakes arrived I found out why. Nutty and laughably good – we left with the recipe.
Any negatives? A bitter red gem that even a generous helping of parmesan and a zingy preserved lemon gel couldn’t lift. And a long wine menu isn’t necessary – the short one fits the scene much better.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All in all, an exciting and composed addition to Borough. We’ll definitely be back.
Total bill for two, excluding service: £105