The day: 14th January 2007, Lunchtime.
The place: 316, Queenbridge Road, London E8 3NH (020-7249 6727)
The venue: LMNT
The food: gastropub
The drinks: Limited range of wines, but almost all of them are available by the glass. Good draft beer.
This is a most amazing little place in Hackney, quite difficult to get to by public transport (bus only). The exterior is unremarkable (to justify the fact we forgot to take a picture of it). But when you cross the door you enter a dream-like world, a world of alcoves, recesses, masks and giant amphors, styles varying from fake Egyptian to fake Roman. Not to mention the pretty X-rated but humorous decorations in the toilets. Here is one satisfied customer in the dining room, for example
And here another view of the interior:
We went on a Sunday lunchtime at 2pm and the place was almost empty: by 4pm it was heaving with happy families who obviously had had a late start. But let’s begin from the beginning.
There is a small selection of starters and main courses at very reasonable prices, even more reasonable at lunchtime: £2.45 for starters (no, we are not kidding), £6.95 for mains and £2.45 for desserts, which increase by £1, £2 and £1 in the evenings, respectively. Side dishes come at £2.35 lunchtime and £3.35 dinner.
The hummus makes clear that the chef likes garlic. We do so too, so no problem here. The hummus was not just tahini and chickpeas, probably quite a bit of cream or yogurt added, but hey, its’ free!
The starters arrive:
The salmon was really nice: chunky but melt-in-the mouth, on white pancakes (so not really blinis which need buckwheat flour) and a dill yogurt. The whole went together rather well. As for the duck, while by no means a chef masterpiece, Man liked the minimalist presentation, the geometry lesson feel of the dish, and the play between duck and sweet potato (namely the disks you see under the confit). Woman instead was not at all impressed: the sweet potatoes were just sitting on their own, the confit was stringy and too much on the dry side. The accompanying plum sauce tasted a bit artificial (plum taste hardly recognisable, Man thought it was raspberries): here Man and Woman agree.
As mains, we had the Pan roast pheasant breast and the Sunday roast (we chose beef over the other alternatives, turkey and lamb), slightly more expensive at £7.95, but it includes Yorkshire pudding and veggies.
The roast was OK. A little too much swimming in an uninspiring and bland gravy, but the vegetables (especially the green beans) were well sourced and cooked to the right consistency. The Yorkshire pudding had too little emptiness in it (!), but tastewise was very respectable.
The pheasant in Man’s palate was nicely crisp and flavoursome, just a touch dry. This one was accompanied by a potent reduction, just a pity the cauliflower tasted like polenta. Man remarked that the polenta tasted funny. Since Woman reads the menu more attentively, she knew what she was eating, and had plenty of time to worry about the fat content of her diet (it felt like they had been creamed, the cauliflower taste never again to be retrieved)…
We finished with a shared Dark chocolate tart with passion fruit coulis.
This definitely tasted of chocolate! Man also liked the tanginess of the passion fruit coulis, which unfortunately he believed to be kiwi with lime Woman refuses to comment.
We washed it all down with two pints of excellent Czech Budwar on tap (£3.50 each).
The final bill came to an eye-popping £32.175 for two. We had a good and pleasant time at LMNT. This is a place which has always been marked by good, cheerful and efficient service. Despite our flippant earlier remarks, we ate rather well here. There is clearly a kitchen staff with some aspirations within a very tight budget constraint, and sometimes these aspirations are realised. Ok, sometimes they are not, but if one just eats joyously and without fussing about the details, s/he will be happy here. And the more so when s/he sees the bill. Incredible value for money in this category: just think the rubbish you could spend this sum on in many Central London establishments. Another favourable comparison is with Denbies, which serves dishes in a sense reminiscent of the gastro pub style, but that are no match for price and atmosphere. Well done LMNT!