There’s been a lot of chat about the supposed ‘Irishness’ of this new Shoreditch gaff: the name, the chef’s roots (he’s Scottish, but grew up in Derry), the comfort grub. But it feels more like a US ski lodge, all rough wood panelling, group tables and upbeat vintage tunes. They even played ‘American Pie’ (loudly).
But despite the rustic, good-time vibe, the menu is straight-up trendy London (suckling pig and calcots, cod with Pernod, black leg chicken and anchovy). Just with Celtic nods: a stout sauce, a side of champ.
Snacks and starters were the best bits. It was impossible not to love the two tiny oaty ‘crackers’ topped with rich, deliciously salty cod roe. Then there was a small ‘round’ of soda bread – more like a chewy piece of puff pastry – which came with a morsel of foie gras and a citrus hit of sweet, de-skinned clementine. Also, a mound of crab meat with thin folds of lardo (cured pork back fat), served simply, over a piece of good toast. So moreish.
Other dishes – steak tartare with that stout sauce, bluntly seasoned but otherwise good; a buttery ‘dauphinoise’ that wasn’t really a dauphinoise – did the job. But there were mishaps too, like a cabbage with bland, fatty bacon, or an overcooked piece of rabbit, that exposed the kitchen’s weak spots.
A mixed bag of a meal, then. Still, Nuala has heaps of atmosphere, plus achingly charming staff. Not to mention an open fire pit you’ll want to warm your hands at. It's grand.