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A larger SE1 incarnation of the celebrated wild food restaurant.
Remember the first Native? Then you’ll remember that its very smallness – it had once, after all, been a Neal’s Yard bead shop – was a big part of its charm. Just 25 seats, all nooks and crannies, over two tiny floors. So when it moved to a much larger site in Borough, I was worried. But I needn’t have been. It’s gorgeous. Like, grown-up gorgeous. Or straight out of the pages of something you’d read at an expensive dentist’s gorgeous. Under your feet, you’ll find buffed-up-then-scuffed up parquet floors. The exposed brick walls are the colour of a dappled grey mare. There are matt-black girders and spindly silver birch trees that they’ve foraged themselves. Because that’s still this restaurant’s schtick. It celebrates all things wild and just-plucked from these fair isles. Everything is Native.
And it’s not just the interiors that have had an upgrade. The food – which was always excellent – is that little bit more slick, more showy. There’s a line-up of ‘chef’s wasting snacks’, made from things that would have otherwise been thrown away. Like a canapé-sized bao, the pillowy white bun stuffed with smoked ox hearts from Northfield Farm (a Borough Market supplier) which would otherwise end up in the bin. The meat – which they cure and smoke themselves – is smooth and tender, the delicately charred flavour given a boost by a lick of smoked mayo and the sweet-salt of miso caramel. To cut through it all, fermented carrot. And that’s just one snack. If this is what making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear looks like, I’m on board.
The fish dishes are decent enough, but Native really thrills when it gets its hands on some meat. The venison – varieties change through the seasons – is a must. On the night of my visit, it came from the South Downs, and was served with a yeasted onion purée (silky, buttery, intense), a chunk of burnt onion (sweet and mild), a slick of jus (dark, sticky, salty) and a cluster of dashi-soaked, deep-fried girolles (just OMG). Equally swoon-worthy was a celeriac ‘lasagne’ – using still-crunchy sleeves of celeriac in place of al dente pasta – slathered in a thick, herby, impossibly meaty ragù of shorthorn beef. There were more strata: house-made ricotta, morsels of pickled walnuts and a fine topping of breadcrumbs with Lincolnshire Poacher (an award-winning hard cheese from oop north).
It’s not exactly cheap (currently £38 a head for two courses plus those terrific snacks), but it is magnificent. In fact, it’s the best restaurant to arrive in these parts since Padella. But you can actually book. What are you waiting for?
32 Southwark Street
|Transport:||Tube: London Bridge|
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £130.|
|Do you own this business?|