Ellory is back. Well, sort of. This time, it’s in Shoreditch, not Hackney. Oh and the team have called it Leroy. Apparently this was their pet name for Ellory, ‘since many people were unable to pronounce the name of our restaurant.’ I’m not sure why knowing how to say the name is that important – it never did Yauatcha any harm – but whatever.
What matters is this: the EC2 reboot is miles better than the E8 original. Mostly, this is because the whole thing – the room, the food, the service – is much more relaxed. The large room was once a wine bar and that ethos, of pairing small plates with lovely glasses of vino, lives on.
Flavours are clean and bright, ingredients unfussy. One highlight was a cold dish of locally cured trout, the slices of sweet, subtle flesh set against a kaleidoscope of condiments: a dollop of horseradish crème fraîche; a tangle of sweet, sharp slivers of pickled onion; a tiny Jenga-esque stack of sweet pickled cucumber. Delicious, and pretty as a picture. Also excellent: a poshed-up street food snack of tender, piquant quail served in nuggets on a skewer.
But my fave thing? A dish of ‘mussels and tomatoes on toast’. This didn’t really sound like it would work, but it turned out to be glorious: plump shellfish and a medley of assorted tommies over a piece of thick, chewy sourdough, plus minced capers and aioli, and a drizzle of lovage oil. It was juicy, chewy, fragrant, meaty (in a seafoody way) and, well, frankly magnificent. Oh, and don’t miss the pepper-flecked courgettes with yoghurt either. Just trust me.
The only disappointment was the richest dish: a plate of asparagus with chopped nuts and egg. It was strangely heavy, yet forgettable.
But on the whole, Leroy has all the makings of a timeless modern European small-plates joint. Of course, I was there in summer, and this is a seasonal sort of place where the tones will turn autumnal as the colours of the leaves change. But the dining room itself has an eternally sunny quality, with lots of big windows casting light across the parquet floor, laidback grooves played off vinyl and sparkly orbs dangling from overhead. Staff know their food (and their wine), but are hugely warm and welcoming too. Ellory is dead, long live Leroy.