Lupins of Union Street opened in May 2017 and they are a sage nod to cooking small plates with exclusively British ingredients to the rhythm of the seasons – chuck in big global flavours for good measure too and you’ll get Lupins. Ok, it sounds like a well-worn sock, but who cares if it works right? More on that later. Inside, it’s all about counter dining over-looking the kitchen as you walk in. That’s where I like to play. Upstairs is bright with pastel colours; timber wood flooring and matching table tops give a rustic feel. It’s like Spring in a room. Of course there’s exposed brick everywhere as we live in the current decade and walls are hewn with the wine on offer, which is one of the aces up their sleeve by the way. Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke, are the pair responsible, they cooked at Medlarin before doing this.
Good sour dough £3 sticks with you for life, the stuff here does just that. The crust gave this incredible crunch and character before you even get the lacy centre which was a celebration to how good bread can be. It came with coagulated brown butter with deep toffee and nut notes for maximum seepage into the lacy bread. Can you tell I like this bread?
Silky white bean crostini £2 with salty anchovies came with a lemon salsa punched up with parsley, capers and a slick pool of olive oil. Eating this type of food give me tingles.
Panko shelled croquettes £5 were filled with a roux tasting intensely of tomatoes. It came with the earthy bite that comes with olive tepenade and the citric tang of feta.
The first of the small plates came the gooey burrata £10 with a slow braise of strawberry sofrito, along with pickled jalapeño and the crunch of pearl barely. Plenty of black pepper and olive oil meant it was great sourdough moppage.
My favourite of the afternoon was the pappardelle £9. Long silky ribbons pasta, the colour of butter yellow were coated in marinade of parmesan, more of that tepenade, pine nuts, basil and an umami lip smack of cured speck. If I was a crocodile, I’d be doing the death roll in a big pool of this stuff.
Chopped raw beef £9 with pickled pear and sesame was a triumph too. They can’t seem to put a foot wrong, and I found myself using more of their sour dough to accompany each bite.
Last but not least were juicy balls of harissa spiced lamb kofte £10 with a chestnut brown sear. Wild rice salad featured diced cucumber, tomato, dollops of tahini and yogurt gave their acidic push breaking up the luscious oils on my tongue.
Visit number 2..
Gordal olives £5 “the fat one” from Seville. Don’ mind if I do.
First came the cured mackerel £12 the got a good torching until the skin crispens, pickled beets and pickled cherries provide some mouth puckering action. If that’s not enough there are dollops of nose tickling horse radish. It’s a highlight dish.
Cubes of succulent chicken thighs £9 come golden and oil slicked. The skin crisped and are nestling on piped smoked cods roe with a cured egg yolk taking centre stage, ready to become the sauce. Batons of spring onions tops feature as do micro herbs. The whole dish is a mouth watering miracle.
Cornmeal spring onions and chipotle mayo £7.5 are much more than that. The cornmeal provides a deliciously nutty crunch and the onions taste intensely of themselves, crispy in some places with a toffee sweetness in others. I can’t believe it took me the second visit to discover them.
During the third outing after The Whisky Show we saw Chef Natasha Cooke in action, running the kitchen like a well oil machine and entertaining the five of us.
What they seemed to do well here in my experience are fried things, the cavelo nero and gruyere croquettes £5 are no exception. They are golden shelled snacks for grown ups, full of cheesy ooze and more of the olive tepenade features. It seems like their favourite garnish.
Curried grouse somasa’s £5 are also a wonder from the fryer. There is an unmistakable shattering crunch and a deep flavoured filling. Damson plum sauce is cooling yet inventive. It’s like the colour of hot-sin sauce with the flavour of tamarind. Genius.
Cornmeal spring onions and chipotle mayo £7.5 are a stalwart and quite rightly. This time mid-inhale, I got the the crunch of grit, my molars protested for a while but somehow I still got it down. Lack of cleaning perhaps? School boy error.
Grilled sardines £9 came with samoriglio, an a southern Italian condiment made of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and herbs. Yum.
Venison capeletti £10 came with arrabbiata, a spicy sauce punched up with garlic, tomatoes, and the fire of chilli. Shaved coolea cheese adds more richness.
We end the night with a rich chocolate ganache £6, sesame and salted caramel it came with somehow enhances instead of over cloying.
When did I go? June 2018, July 2018, Sept 2018
The damage: Expect to pay £35/50 per head with drinks
The good: I came to Lupins to get what I want in life, “wow” moments in food. I think delectable is an insufficient word, that’s all you need to know so just go. What are you waiting for?
The bad: Their stablemate dish of cornmeal spring onions weren’t crunchy, they were gritty during my third outing. I’m sure a good rinse will solve that issue.
Would I go again? Oh yes
Address: 66 Union St, London SE1 1SG