Intimate Dining Par Excellence – Little Quiet
You have to try this place, even if you only go once. Little Quiet is the first permanent restaurant from the team behind The Disappearing Dining Club whose mission is to bring people together to enjoy great food and drink in private and unusual spaces. They have been fashionably ‘popping up’ temporary restaurants, and running supper clubs and dinner parties since 2010 in venues as varied as lighthouses to laundrettes. Locally, they have previously temporarily hosted at Old Street, Bethnal Green, Brick Lane and Bermondsey but here in Smithfield they are (hopefully) here to stay.
Little Quiet has woken up what used to be a wine bar some 20 years ago and it is not surprising that the wine bar closed down because this tiny little back road, which runs parallel to the eastern end of Long Lane, is very much not on the beaten path and barely has enough road girth for one car. Newbury Street has probably seen more action in the last few months with all the diversions on Aldersgate Street but I’ve seen a fair few longer limos struggling to turn into its tight corner after the Frank Harris shop!
The first thing you struggle to notice is the plaque outside what could pass for an unassuming little terraced house. Then you notice the warm lighting inside mostly hidden by black panels and curtains which is so infuriating for nosy parkers like me. On the joyous day that we finally passed through the doors, at last, it is just so different and so cute! You hang up your coats at the entrance, which is only 5 strides away from your seat (so nothing to worry about there) and it is straight ahead into the dining area.
The gorgeous little space only seats about 16 in one rectangular room (possibly the depth of the whole narrow block) on intimate 2 seater tables that can be pushed together, obviously, for larger groups. The lighting is low and relaxed music plays in the background (so relaxed that I can’t remember what it was, just that it ‘fits’). The décor is old, elegant, living room cum library with dark paint and rich colours. The width of the room accommodates 3 separate tables’ width and because of the intimacy, this isn’t the ideal place for scandalous secrets or violent debates. Instead, the layout welcomes the making of new friends, if you want, or a romantic and private meal between the 2 of you if you don’t. I’d say that there must be a mathematical calculation for spacing in order for this to be achieved, and whether by design or accident, Little Quiet has pulled it off. It reminds me of a restaurant I went to in France recently where it was almost churlish not to say at least a Bonjour to the neighbours, but after that, you could take your pick at conversation as you wished. It also reminds me of a restaurant I loved with a passion in West Hampstead called Sheridan’s, where we would feast on Chateaubriand and in the company of the other diners into the wee hours; somehow it always ended up as a social mix-up that way there. I’ve been on the search for a replacement to that restaurant ever since and I think we might have it here.
Almost as soon as we were seated, the waitress brought a carafe of water to the table. I love it when a restaurant gives you free water without you asking for it; it smacks of honesty and doesn’t make you feel stingy when you ask for it.
I’d better get on with the food. We all know that the prices in London are not cheap, and often you’ll be paying a not inconsiderate amount of money for what is hopefully a great meal. Where Little Quiet marks high with me is that, here, you will be paying less (not much less, but prices are very reasonable) for not just great food, but truly stunning food. The menu is small and ever-changing but from our experience and the other visitors I have gossiped with, you can put your taste buds safely in the hands of the Head Chef, Fredrik Bolin, who, being Swedish, likes to pop a hint of Scandinavia into the dishes.
We lapped up a cocktail while we were choosing from the menu. Service is very quick, efficient and very friendly. My partner chose a gin and lemon fizz and I opted for a cop-out fruity virgin cocktail with ginger which I’d order again in a heartbeat.
The waitress brings along a snack with some bread while we choose; it is literally called ‘Something from the Kitchen’ on the menu; again, it is a time to trust the chef. Tasty bread with roasted sweetcorn and goat’s cheese.
Something from the Kitchen & Bread & Butter
I thought I wouldn’t much like this as my Mother was a goat’s cheese fan and it always smelt too much of farmyard for my liking, but the flavour was delicate and the surprising tang from the roasted sweetcorn must have washed away the farm somehow. This was the first of the ‘I wouldn’t have chosen this but I loved it’ moments.
There is only a set of choices from a small set menu. If you like the chef will choose for you, but we weren’t that venturesome. For starters, my partner chose the Celeriac Soup, which was divine with its subtle celery-like flavour and mild nutty overtones, the soup was a deliciously thick but not cloggy start to the meal.
Celeriac Soup with Brown Almond Butter and Parmesan
I chose the Pig’s Head Rillette which turned out to be an irresistible combination of paté
-like quenelle with spicy bread most enjoyable with the beetroot prepared 3 ways: pickled, pureed and sweetly reduced. I am not a very adventurous diner and a Pig’s Head wouldn’t be my first choice for a meal. This was my second moment of enlightenment; the tastes and textures were exquisite and I didn’t think of the daunting recipe prep at all.
Pigs Head Rilette with Pain D’épice and Autumn Beetroots
Also on the starter menu this evening was Tuna Sashimi with Radish Salad, Avocado and Wasabi Mayo
For the main course, I selected the Sea Trout. I’ve had this fish quite a few times now so I’m improving my comparisons. I love this fish and a fresh sea trout is food fit for the gods, so there is not much that can improve on it, but something magic in the Scandinavian vinaigrette elevated it for me, so I’d have to add this to my list of ‘best fish dishes anywhere’.
Seared Sea Trout with Egg, Herring & Chive Vinaigrette and Crushed Potatoes
My partner chose the Ox Cheeks, another challenging recipe conquered exquisitely. This is a very tough cut of meat and the kitchen has patiently transformed it into succulent mouth-watering goodness. We both also particularly enjoyed the decadent cauliflower cheese croquette accompanying the meat and the intense port jus.
Braised Ox Cheeks with Potato Fondant, Cauliflower Cheese Croquette and Port Jus
Also on the main course menu this evening was Pan Fried Potato & Wild Mushroom Dumpling with Braised Chicory for the vegetarians among us – or others who might like to choose vegetarian over meat or fish.
For pudding, I’ll try not to gush. I chose the chocolate brownie, but this dish is nothing like what you’d expect and is in a completely different league from any brownie that I have tasted before or since. ‘I want another one now’ nags me constantly as I write this up; to describe it to you is almost painful! It comes semi-broken up in a cocktail glass with just the right amount of salted caramel and sweet popcorn cream. I know that the restaurant changes their menu often, but if you like chocolate and the brownie is still there, then do try it!
The divine Chocolate Brownie, Salt Caramel and Popcorn Parfait. My photo does not do it justice, so I’ll have to return many times to take many more photos.
My partner chose the cheese; all three were British and served with water biscuits and fruit. Gone are the days when it was de rigueur for any restaurant with pretensions to serve French cheeses. There are great English ones and the three here – a Somerset brie, a farmhouse cheddar and a Cropwell blue were almost cheese perfection. Vive le fromage Anglais.
Three Great British Cheeses
Also on the dessert menu tonight was the Earl Grey Crème Brûlée.
After the meal, there was no urgency for us to order anything else but we asked for coffee; I think diners linger longer here than we had prepped for! Coffee comes carafe style and there was no decaf coffee, but my partner enjoyed an infusion instead (which is probably better to sleep on than decaf anyway).
To round up, if you are a dining fanatic, then you probably already know about Little Quiet. For those who are new to this dining experience, then you simply have to try it. Even on a budget, the 2 course menu for £32 is, without doubt, very well worth the money. Three courses will set you back £35 and six £45. There is no à la carte for the evening menu. This is a special place, but not only for special occasions, so dip in and enjoy. I have a feeling that this is going to be a regular place for our family.
Little Quiet / 24-26 Newbury Street, EC1A 7HU
020 3793 0202 or you can book on the website disappearingdiningclub.co.uk
Lunch / Thursday & Friday / 12pm till 3pm
Dinner / Wednesday to Saturday / 6pm till 10pm