Bung a seasoned chef from Waterloo gastropub The Anchor & Hope, an ex-general manager from Shoreditch’s Rochelle Canteen and a pastry chef from nose-to-tail titans St John into a room and what do you get? The nucleus of a super-seasonal British cooking venn diagram, that’s what. And, as it happens, Llewelyn’s – a brilliant new neighbourhood joint in Herne Hill – delivers in every department. Where to start? Well, there’s the serene interior, airy white with green leather banquettes and a super-chic flecked terrazzo bar, as well as tables out front for languid, sun-dappled alfresco lunching. Big tick. Then there’s the compact, carefully curated drinks list, chock-full of interesting wines (including some from local food market hero Le Grappin, another tick), a smattering of decent sherries and sweets, and a couple of punchy aperitifs, including a bang-on-trend port and tonic, and the de rigueur negroni. Overzealous handshakes all round.
Then, there’s the food. The food! Classic contemporary European dishes done beautifully. I tried nearly all of them. Of the starters, a caponata strewn with crunchy sourdough crumbs and strained ricotta was best – a masterpiece of canny restraint that even outdid fab little lamb koftes, which hummed with Levantine spice and were offset with cool, creamy tzatziki.
Of the mains, a generous mound of Hereford beef shin ragú with smotheringly rich polenta could have come straight off an Umbrian farmer’s table. Ricotta-filled ravioli might have been a bit too al dente, but I’d forgive far worse to slurp up more of the flavourful tomato consommé they came floating in. The winner: a rabbit niçoise. The meat had been stripped and confited, dotted with pickled red onions, cherry tomatoes and a soft, deep orange egg. To say it was the best rabbit I’ve had isn’t much of an accolade, but it was the finest salad I’ve eaten so far this year. And that is. It was washed down with a Honorio Rubio ‘Tremendus’ Clarete rioja rosé that lived up to its name.
The magic continued with the puds: from a fab strawberry and mascarpone cheesecake that reminded me of sweetshops and sunshine, to a crunchy-based, gluten-free slice of chocolate ganache and salted caramel tart – a freebie offered to us from the dinner menu after cooing over the kitchen’s Instagram shoot. It was outrageously good.
Basically, there was nothing to fault. The service was impeccable. Prices are reasonable. I haven’t shut up about it since, and don’t really intend to any time soon. SE24, you don’t know how lucky you are.