Jackson Boxer is the boss of a bunch of greats such as Brunswick House in Vauxhall, Orasay in Notting Hill, the food-driven members “Chess Club. In June 2018 he opened St Leonards, a joint venture with chef Andrew Clarke. It’s their second project together after Brunswick House and is aptly named after the road it’s on. Boxer has since trotted on in July 2019 to focus on Brunswick House and Orasay and leaves St Leonards to Clarke, a modish looking chap with a plaited beard and sleeve tattoos who I’ve seen about in Shoreditch. They have space for 70 diners in a dining room full of warm timber furnishings, a horse-shoe bar and a private dining room for 12. There is a wood-burning stone hearth with hanging game and iron mongery that Blacklock would be envious of.
We start with raw mackerel £8, four pinky finger sized slithers surrounded in a pool of soy butter and dandelion – it taste remarkably like miso. Fish and miso are perfect partners in crime.
We then get the isle of mull scallop £11 with Rolls Royce of the forest – girolles, batons of butternut squash and a drizzle of yeast – just like marmite but less intense, it gets the saliva glands motivated. There were 3 of us meaning that I had to divide it up leaving only a nibble that disappeared in less than a second. Could they have give us two for the price? Yes!
First from the hearth came the coal roasted pumpkin £15 served next to a pile of nutty berlotti beans and braised treviso, a purple leaved vegetable just like radicchio without the punchy bitterness. It was a pleasing side dish that should have been half the price – at best. I found it hard to believe that much labour went into it.
Hake £19 came a blob brown crab aioli, the same colour as burger sauce but tasted nothing of the sort – it was good use of the sweet funk from the depths of the shell. The chive flecked white meat was scattered on top and a charred baby leek giving some toffee notes.
From the hearth again came the wood pigeon, the most striking dish for the night for me and best value at £16. The skin was thin and clung to the purple flesh of the bird which was boosted with amazing flavour with a little whip of wood smoke.
The swine, a Tamworth chop £26 was more goodness from the hearth – it had a sweet mineral forward flavour that just coats the tongue nicely. Home made mustard gave it more allure. Williams pear gave crunch as did the alpine daikon.
Purple sprouting broccoli which I love was amped but salty nibbles of ham knuckle and smoked chilli. It was a lot of thrill for the mouth for £6 in my eyes.
Our guest went for the roquefort £9 with seed pelted crackers.
We went for the salted caramel tart £9 with East India sherry and cardamom ice-cream. It was sticky and boozy to the right levels, it was a desert worth pining after.
To finish off, we got the Hungarian truffle ice cream £6 – we all got a hit of chlorine, our dining said that it tasted like what comes out of the male reproductive organs – it was just plain weird!
When did I go? Dec 2018 – St Leonards is no more, this post is for reference purposes.
The damage: Expect to pay £75/85 per head without booze
The good: If you have a gap in your belly that need filling with some consummate cooking then try some of the food here. It definitely has a deft touch with some unfamiliar combinations.
The bad: It’s costly.
Would I go again? Yeah why not
Address: 70 Leonard St, Hackney, London EC2A 4QX