Looking for restaurants in East London? Read our review of modern American restaurant Two Lights, and check out more suggestions for eating in London’s best restaurants here.
Two Lights in a nutshell: A new neighbourhood restaurant in a corner of London that’s best known for its Vietnamese cuisine, Two Lights is the latest from the The Clove Club alumni with a sophisticated, so-called ‘modern American’ focus.
Maine export Chase Lovecky is chef patron. Previously head chef at The Clove Club, Chase has notably also done time at Momofuku and Jean-Georges in New York, among other world greats.
What’s the vibe?
It’s buzzing when we arrive, early Sunday evening, and we spot chef Jun Tanaka from The Ninth on his night off dining at a table opposite. Décor is stark – whitewashed brick walls, clothless tables and not a soft furnishing in sight. But, a peek-through kitchen with a wood-fired oven glowing in the back, high shelves lined with weird and wonderful pickles, intriguing vintages, trendy creepers and ferns, and some intensely foodie bedtime reading keeps things interesting.
Also, staff seem to be genuinely happy to see you. They care – whether that’s ensuring your glass of (great) wine is served at the perfect temperature, or guiding you through their menu highlights.
What’s the food like?
The menu’s a casual breakdown of small plates that get bigger the further down you head – aim to order around six savoury plates between two. We spy lots of diners ordering huge globes of roasted artichoke, which are plucked and dunked in a sunflower-seed miso dip.
Our server guides us, instead, in the direction of flamed bonito. And, we’re glad he did. Barely licked by the smoky flames, the tuna is sashimi-soft, and perked up with the help of pickled onion, mustard, some marvellous crunchy bits and the rounded warmth of freshly snipped chives.
The dishes this restaurant will become best known for though, and quite rightly, are a sardine katsu sandwich – perhaps the least Instagram-friendly dish this side of Old Street station – and crab atop beef-fat ‘chips’. The former, a panko-battered fish (tail and all, poking out from one end) sandwiched between cheap, crustless, white slices, is brilliant. (We liked it so much we asked for the recipe, click here to see it.) The chips, millefeuille-like, are super crisp fingers topped with delicately sweet picked and dressed white crab meat, with a welcome sharpness from tiny pickled elderflower buds, all served on millennial-pleasing blush-pink plates.
Soft slices of grouse sausage pay serious respect to this glorious season, as do the creamy, plump coco beans, explicitly split ripe figs and slick of fig leaf oil that they’re served with. Another plate of stuffed guinea fowl – as juicy as you’ll ever find this bird, skin crisp and golden, too – came with a mound of roughly creamed broccoli spiked with, surprise ingredient, yuzu and topped with a rubble of green pistachio. Earthy, floral, sharp, sour, salty – broccoli became the star of the show.
Custard tart with smoked caramel is a clever remake of a classic – with all the wobble of its heyday still intact – while a cheese plate of Lincolnshire poacher with shards of homemade oatcakes, and a fragrant apple and shisho jelly rounded everything off nicely.
And the drinks?
Whether you start with a Victory Bitter and tonic, a Two Lights martini or a non-alcoholic iced tea – there’s an aperitif to suit every thirst – move quickly onto the wine. There’s a succinct list, well broken down (e.g. crimson and tense, fruit forward) with interesting wines from the Old World, and America, naturally, by the glass.
olive tip: Don’t skip the sides – carrots roasted, dusted with fennel pollen and draped in disappearing, melting lardo was simply ace.
Two Lights, 28 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DA
Words by Laura Rowe
Images by David Cotsworth