A lot of money’s been spent on redesigning this tiny, oddly shaped restaurant to distract from its awkwardly long and small rooms. You may have to participate in the ‘excuse me, excuse me’ dance to get past the waiting staff to your table, as we did. We were ushered down the stairs to the little back room, where we could watch staff practising their corridor capoeira on each other.
The solidly built good looks of the place – bare brick, engraved mirrors, parquet – are a strong clue that Verru has aspirations. Chef/owner Andrei Lesment is Estonian, and many of the other staff have Eastern European accents; the piped music was Edith Piaf. The menu’s Modern European, but consciously uses ingredients of northern provenance, a sort of Baltic-French collaboration.
Icelandic cod was a smallish portion for a main course costing £16.50, but the flesh was firm and attractively seared on one side. Colourful garnishes included little melon-scoops of courgette and a mussel shell, for effect. Venison meatballs had a stronger, gamier flavour than their pork or veal cousins, tender and moist, the plate garnished with a yellow blob of pureed sweet potato, baby carrots and swiss chard.
Desserts include appealing combinations such as elderflower cheesecake with poached rhubard, or a slab of dark chocolate with more of that plate-blobbing embellishment.
The cooking at Verru is nowhere near as good as places such as Pied à Terre or Maze, where Lesment has previously worked, but then prices – lthough far from cheap – are also much more modest.
Tellingly, the service was still lacking confidence and initiative on our visit; the fire alarm went off twice, very loudly, but no apology or explanation was offered.