Llewelyn’s is southeast London’s worst-kept secret; a buzzing little neighbourhood restaurant that’s gone from strength to strength over the years, not least when the pass was taken over by chef Lasse Petersen (late of Copenhagen’s Amass) in mid-2020. I adored it when it opened (back when a pre-fame Ravneet Gill was on dessert detail) and adore it now.
Anyhoo, Lulu’s – a teeny-tiny grocers/sandwichers/vintners in the attached former hair salon next door – is Petersen’s contribution to London’s burgeoning caves à manger boom. Which is to say, wine shops with food in the Parisian style, vaguely in that order.
It’s enormously cute. That’d mean zip but for the food and booze; but both, mercifully, are excellent
The space itself is a light-filled bolthole of soaped wood and alabaster veneers; standing-height tables and stools – loomed over by shelves of bijous cupboard staples – that spill out into the charming square outside Herne Hill station, pleasantly thrumming year-round and borderline Gallic in the late-summer gloaming. It’s enormously cute. That’d mean zip but for the food and booze; but both, mercifully, are excellent, not least as the former appears to be slapped together by Petersen on a couple of hot plates next to the till, ‘Franco style.
A marmalade Martini was the ideal stiffener. All subtle sweetness and wicked strength, it was ideal for knocking back a couple of fab house gildas – here refined by subbing guindilla chillies and salted anchovies for subtler, piquant roquito peppers, pickled anchovies and a cornichon. Out of the traps.
A plate of Fiocco di Canossa saw a lean cut from the pig’s thigh; delicately flavoured, silken in texture, lustrous in looks; a more gossamer prosciutto. Next came a tortilla of such burnished majesty that I've mused on it daily since. A tortilla’s alchemy is in its asceticism: the hallowed triumvirate of pre-fried potato, glacially-stewed onions, good eggs and often nothing else. This one, fainty embellished with the addition of dandelion and a dollop of honking aioli, was worth the trip alone.
Then, slivers of cured monkfish mosaicked with grilled peppers and preserved lemon – the near-translucent fish lifted by the fruit and given a complex herb note from a dash of fig leaf oil – and scattered with ‘Purple Butterfly’ sorrel, headily redolent of shiso and sweet-sharp kombucha. I’d have eaten a fistful.
A sizeable plate of toothsome tagliolini with crab (and, crucially, plenty of the brown stuff), monk’s beard and crisp pangritata hummed of the foreshore, only dragged onto land by the odd – but not distasteful – addition of a fistful of rosemary. If there was a true misfire, it was the slightly dense flatbread underneath a summertide mound of fresh labneh, sweetcorn, girolles and summer truffle shavings (which was otherwise as blissful as that reads).
We hammered the lot with a bottle of an orange Parajes del Valle macabeo, then another of a Durrman pinot noir/gris blend from Alsace. Excessive, yes, but it at least proved the ‘cave’ bit here is as considered as the ‘manger’ – each possessing an airy, natty tang that complimented both food and weather.
TBH, given the dinky size, paucity of covers and ‘enigmatic Zone 2 gem’ status, I’m loath to recommend Lulu’s so effusively. But journalistic integrity must win out. Pitch-perfect plates, affable staff and a breezily cosmopolitan setting? Fine, go and nab one of this dwindling summer’s most swooning tickets. See what I care.
The vibe An intimate, bustling, urbane little wine shop/restaurant in Herne Hill.
The food Creative modern European small plates that skew equally delicate and rustic.
The drink A brilliantly curated but relatively concise list of natural wines – many from lesser represented climes – and a few banging cocktails to boot.
Time Out tip Visit on a balmy evening and take an alfresco seat – this is a place to get blissfully squiffed over a languorous couple of hours.