Eyre Brothers

Something in the Eyre?

13th Dec, 2016

Big Dog. Stalwart. Old School. Maverick. Guru. Ground-breaker. David Eyre merits all of these tags and maybe a few more. He’s been grooving to his own tune for so long, at the top of his game, that it’s almost as if we’ve forgotten about what it means to be a “stayer” in the restaurant game. Caught up in the thrill of the new, the hot, the zeitgeist and the breathless pace of London restaurant openings, we could perhaps do ourselves a favour by taking a moment to survey the scene. Who has stayed the course? Who is still consistently brilliant? Who do we still want to visit after ten years of their opening? There are a handful. Moro in Exmouth Market, Sam and Sam Clark quietly going about their business after fourteen years. Jeremy Lee at Blueprint Café still delights twenty years later. The Square is set to celebrate twenty years this month, and still inspires a little joyous skip as you walk inside. Then there is the The Eagle pub in Farringdon – which David just happened to have opened himself in 1991 with Michael Belben, and is noted for leading the charge of the “Gastropub”, the first pub in the land offering food of restaurant quality in a pub environment.

We were invited to preview a celebration of the ten year anniversary of Eyre Brothers, which David opened with his brother Robert. For one month the menu will feature the Greatest Hits of the menu over the last decade. We cracked straight into it, after a rather good glass of Cava:

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Almeijoas á Bulhão Pato – Clams, garlic, lemon, fresh coriander. Delicate first course kicks things off. Sweet little clams, with the real joy being the resulting garlicky, lemony, clam infused broth at the bottom. Mopping up territory, and freshly made bread does the job admirably. WINE: Quinta de Azevedo, Vinho Verde, 2010, Portugal – Zippy, spritzy, lemon scented Portuguese white with exhilarating acidity. Like a squeeze of lemon juice over the clams, a perfect foil.

Alentejo style Fat Pork and Lean Beef – Homely, comforting, an enveloping arm round the shoulder of a dish. Slowly braised with garlic, bay, pimentão and white wine, this is beautiful peasant food of the highest order, packing flavour in spades. Melting nuggets of pork, tender beef, and another dish yielding a wicked liquor that required more warm bread. A “lick the plate clean” dish. WINE: Monte da Peceguina, Alentejo, 2010, Portugal – A plump, juicy little number, characteristic of the fleshy wines of Alentejo. Much warmer than the Douro, the tannins are softer and sweeter than the sturdy reds further north. Strawberry scented and utterly charming.

Salt Cod Brandada & Roast Pimentos de Piquillo - A white puck of meaty cod, a dazzling pure white, singing with the zip of fresh garlic. No sight of the promised egg, but the sweet roasted Pimentos pepper and cherry tomatoes are balanced well against salty capers and black olives. Simple, subtle, classic. WINE: Naia, Verdejo, 2010, Rueda, Spain – Lusher than many Verdejo, this doesn’t posess the shrill acidity and vegetal twang of some, instead carrying things off with a stone fruit core, a touch of apricot, great texture.

Caldeirada Portuguese Seafood Stew – Brimming with prawns, clams, mussels, gilthead bream and monkfish, a festival of fish. A groaning bowl of seafood, juicy nuggets to hook out at every turn. Another dish yielding juices at the bottom of the bowl begging to be mopped up. WINE: Luis Pato, Vinhas Velhas, Beiras, 2010, Portugal – Luis Pato makes very fine whites in Bairrada, and this blend of the Bical, Cerceal and Sercialhino grapes is a proper wine. A whisper of good French oak marks this out as classy winemaking, stylistically having more in common with Burgundy than many Portuguese whites. Subtle smoky aromas, roasted nuts, fabulous weight and texture. We liked this one a lot.

Grilled Loin Chop of Acorn-fed Ibèrico Pork – A quivering pork chop of succulent beauty, rosy pink within, slight char, this is a Champions League pork chop. Sitting atop a flattering backdrop of subtly seasoned white planchada beans with just enough rosemary running through. Ibèrico chop centre stage and running away with the plaudits. The memory of this dish reverberates still. WINE: Decenio Reserva, Rioja, 1999, Spain – Old vine Tempranillo here from family winery Bodegas Las Orcas in the Alavesa region of Rioja, this is classic Rioja with a cheeky bit of age on it. Earthy and savoury, touch of sweet spice, delicate structure. The Ibèrico chop had fun with this wine.

Tarta de Santiago – Galician almond and orange tart, made with zero flour. Another simple dish done well. Almond flour soaked in the juice of oranges. Get me a slice for breakfast while you’re at it. WINE: Moscatel, Bodega de Sarria, Navarra, 2010, Spain – Liquid apricots and peaches, what’s not to like?

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David sat and chatted to the table towards the end of the meal, straight from the kitchen, eyes blazing, enthusing about what he loves most about food and cooking. The Pintxo bars of San Sebastián in Spain feature highly on his list of destinations. The nerveless simplicity in his dishes is summed up by a line he utters early on when talking about ingredients: “The detail is in the shopping.”

As David talked I was struck by the thought that he looked like the actor Richard Burton. Not a bad look. Think tousled hair, piercing blue eyes, a restless energy.

There’s a bar you can sit at and indulge in just a few tapas dishes and a couple of beers if you like. Staff are sweet and know their stuff.

A restaurant so off the radar, so little talked about, is a refreshing antidote to a climate in London that sees new joints chewed up and spat out within weeks of opening, the restless pack trampling over one another to reach the next new opening.

Slip down a few gears, turn off into a quiet street off Old Street, sit down at the bar. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled across the hottest new opening nobody told you about.

Copyright Bitten&Written 2016 ©

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