Like many good things in London, 40 Maltby Street sits inside a renovated railway arch. Unassuming but charming, this small restaurant is a microcosm of London culture. There’s exposed brickwork, an open-plan kitchen, immaculately groomed beards and Tetris-style shared seating on long, high tables. And, of course, it doesn’t take bookings.
The menu changes weekly, with around 12 small plates written on a chalkboard. A dish of raw carrot and sunflower seeds was as refreshing as it gets – with chunks of sharp mandarin and fresh mint waking you up like a cold shower on a stuffy weekday morning. A plate of salted cod, buttery and creamy, was kept on its toes with some gnarly chargrilled leak and earthy walnuts.
The roasted mallard was juicy and tender – satisfyingly pink in the middle – accompanied with a liberal splotch of tangy apple sauce, crispy bacon bits and turnips. Most of the food is British-inspired, with the occasional nod to the nearby continent. Staff are friendly so ask for a talk through the menu, including the renowned wine selection.
For dessert, a clementine posset was almost too beautiful to ravage with a spoon – a film of zesty orange jelly sitting comfortably on top of the silky, set cream. A glass overloaded with apple-flavoured ice was invigorating and tasted natural: a far cry from the artificial Slush Puppie outlets that abundantly multiply in the summer.
A couple of the dishes were under-seasoned. The steamed hake, for example, was bland (although the accompanying mussels were so full of flavour that it was like being plunged, mouth-first, into the Scottish sea). Still, it’s pretty seamless at 40 Maltby Street. The ever-changing menu, exciting and imaginative, is a testament to the skill of the kitchen staff. It’s quintessentially London – and extremely brilliant.