A cosy date spot in Spitalfields with a “one of everything” menu that will leave you feeling happy – 8.5/10
If you’ve wandered around Spitalfields Market, there’s a chance you may never have ventured south of Brushfield Street or east of Ottolenghi and may therefore have missed the unmissable pointy glass and zinc pavilion at the crossroads of Crispin Street and White’s Row. It’s unfortunate that it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Markham Moor Little Chef, which was always a recognisable landmark for us as kids on our way up the A1 for rainy weekends in the Yorkshire Dales – the roof is a “hyperbolic paraboloid”, I’m told…
Fortunately, unlike the poor Little Chef, Crispin is very much not disused: a beckoning beacon of light on a moody April day that serves everything from breakfast through to dinner, from speciality coffee to wine and cocktails. It’s run by the same duo responsible for the roaring success of Scotchtails, Dominic Hamdy and Oliver Hiam, at least one of whom is working at Crispin when we drop in for dinner. The space is small and cosy (i.e. you’ll be almost sitting on your neighbour’s lap) and the artsy posters on the walls advertise Crispin’s regular guest events, which have saucy titles like “Big Ren’s Sausage Party” and “Lovers’ Feast“.
The menu naturally guides us to the “one of everything” option for £28pp, which is good value for Spitalfields. Some fat slices of potato sourdough with salted butter have a satisfying crunch and are surprisingly light and bubbly inside. Serving three for two people though is a little daft – one of my pet peeves in any sharing-plate restaurant. The accompanying roundels of salame are thicker and juicier than usual and aromatic with the bright scent of fennel (and there is an even number, yay).
Heritage varieties of carrots are not a novelty in London, but I always prefer both their good looks and extra-earthy sweetness compared to their regular orange cousins. Salted yoghurt clashes with, rather than complements, their sweetness but is useful for scooping all the ingredients together. A scattering of hazelnuts (which seem to be all over menus at the moment) adds a lovely savoury crunch, similar to the calçots at Sabor.
Next up is a bowl of hake broth (not photographed, I’m afraid). It’s tomato-based, warm and spicy – everything you want on a cold evening – but the fillet of hake is slightly overcooked. A pork rib-eye comes in hefty slices with a thick grilled crust and tender, marbled middle. The fat has slightly caramelised which is delightful, especially when we dip it in the thick smudge of velouté underneath. The small pile of pickled peppers are so piquant that even Peter Piper might think twice before picking a peck of them – unnecessary for me, but I have a sweet tooth.
We smell the butterbeans before we see them: the heady scent of wild garlic wafts across to us from the kitchen. March and April is the perfect time to forage for wild garlic, whose pointed leaves and white flowers make it easy to spot. A couple of dollops of melty goat’s curds take this dish up a notch.
A plate of spring tagliatelle is gorgeous: fresh and colourful, with firm peas, broad beans, a chunky spear of white asparagus and a healthy grating of Parmesan. We pierce the yolk and swirl it through the pasta before munching the lot.
To be fair to Crispin, we are both full by this point. The “one of everything” option is just the right amount for two people. However, my suspicions about “dessert stomachs” were recently confirmed by science (the Huffington Post) and the table next to us invokes my envy, so we order the whipped cheesecake with rhubarb. It’s essentially a deconstructed mess: a very sweet crumble with a puddle of tart rhubarb and whipped mascarpone as thick as Philadelphia. If it were constructed into a real cheesecake, it would probably be pretty delicious.
If you find yourself in Spitalfields, it’s definitely worth popping in to Crispin for a quick snack or drink at any time of day. It would even be a great spot for a date: casual, cosy, intimate, with some decent food and caring service. I am planning to re-visit, as I have a feeling they would do a great brunch.
Dinner cost us £93.94 (including three glasses of wine from a short, mostly biodynamic list). Although this isn’t cheap by east London standards, the value for money is definitely better than Ottolenghi round the corner.
A Moveable Feast