Once upon a time, this building was home to a linoleum – or lino – warehouse. They did carpets too, but I suppose calling your restaurant ‘Carpet’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. The theme, slightly disappointingly, ends there. Instead of the slightly springy wipe-clean floors beloved by schools and grannies, the surface under your feet is polished concrete. It’s part of the ever-popular semi-industrial look: open kitchen, central bar and overhead network of puffy silver vents, softened by dusky-toned armchairs.
The food is similarly modish but accessible. At the stoves is Richard Falk, previously head chef at The Dairy, a place famed for its short selection of fashionable small plates. Sure enough, the à la carte is compact and shows confidence. But the trick is to hang on to the snack menu (printed on a separate, even smaller sheet). It’s where you’ll find the real treasure. Like molten St Jude cheese, served in a tiny copper pan in fondue-for-one fashion (but with plenty for two). It came with nicely charred bread and an assortment of pickled baby veg (twisted carrots, sweet tawny onions) plus juicy red chicory. Or a meaty pistachio-studded game terrine held in a golden frame of buttery pastry. Tempura oysters were excellent, as was the hand-cut beef tartare. But the dish of the night? A trio of sauerkraut and cheddar croquettes. Creamy. Crunchy. Staggeringly delicious. In fact, the only serious slip-up was a so-called ‘large plate’ of oxtail hotpot, with meat that was tender but overseasoned. Still, easy to fix.
Do also save space for a slice of the croissant bread-and-butter pudding. Decadent, silken and spiked with zesty notes of marmalade, it’s the kind of dish you’d want as your last meal. I mean, if you’re going to go, go out in style.
On the night of my visit, the air hung with lively chatter and a soundtrack of blues, Motown and funk. Staff were warm and welcoming. There’s a day-to-night vibe that lets Lino be all things to all people, from a breezy business lunch to a dinner date with drinks. Just don’t skip those croquettes.