44 � squaremeal.co.uk
16 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NJ
020 7836 5635 ££
We're fans of Bravas Tapas at St
Katharine Docks, so we were delighted
to hear that co-founder Victor Garvey
was launching his own venue on Covent
Garden's foodie hotspot, Maiden Lane.
Duende means 'mischief' and you'll
notice a cheeky little imp on the menu. But
that's where the naughtiness ends, as the
food here is seriously good. �e tiny room
emits a welcoming glow and is a suitably
dramatic backdrop for a procession of
exquisitely crafted modern tapas dishes,
each as show-stopping as the next; even
the olives arrive in a tiny egg box.
We began with artistically arrayed
slivers of semi-cured beef fillet, the
soft meat contrasting with zesty
pickled eryngii mushrooms,
crunchy roasted hazelnuts and
a flourish of truffle. Fried oysters
with Amontillado sherry arrive in
their shell, dotted with caviar and
toasted almond flakes; crispy tiger
prawns are wrapped in flaky kataifi
pastry. Our standout dish was bitesize
salmon rulada rolls, filled with
red-onion escabeche and punchy
wasabi alioli. Only the heavily
salted pancetta wrapped around foie
gras-stuffed quails' legs sounded an off-key
note, but frankly we're being picky now.
An all-Spanish wine list is packed with
quirky bottles, and there are plans to add
new choices weekly. Five reds, four whites
and cava are available by the glass; the gin
tonicas include Sipsmith and Monkey 47.
Our only quibble is with the small,
elbow-knocking space - meaning tables
will be hard to book. Maybe Garvey's
next venture could be El Gigante?
MUST ORDER Salmon rulada with escabeche
LIKE THIS? TRY THESE Copita 020 3544 0800 Buzzy tapas out�t with an all-Spanish wine list Donostia 020 3620 1845 New-wave tapas joint
taking its cue from San Sebastian Social Wine & Tapas 020 3463 0224 Jason Atherton's tapas bar showcases the wine matchings of sommelier Laure Patry
PITT CUE CO
1 The Avenue, Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YP
020 7324 7770 ££
With the relocation from a Soho shoebox to an airy Spitalfields dining
room, Pitt Cue's surroundings now match its burning ambitions. �is
barbecue Mecca was co-founded by Tom Adams and Jamie Berger,
who gained a strong following in W1 as purveyors of carnivorous
indulgence, serving up well-tended cuts of high-quality meat.
Much shabby character has been sacrificed in moving, but the
benefits of this open-plan, industrial-chic site are evident. �e
restaurant now offers reservations, cocktails and impeccable bar
snacks - as well as meat, seared on the huge, gleaming grill.
Sourcing is key, with all beef coming from a single Cornish
supplier and bread baked in-house. Infectiously enthusiastic
staff made us want to order everything: from unmissable, yeasty,
fat-dripping bread, to crisp scrumpet (a pork-filled disc fried
in breadcrumbs) with a slick of apple sauce. We were, however,
disappointed with our mains. Cured and smoked pork jowl consisted
almost entirely of fat, disguising the slivers of beautifully pink, tasty
flesh, while smoked beef neck was dry at its edges and supremely salty.
Pitt Cue excels at smaller plates and sides (mushroom and bonemarrow
mash was a highlight), though larger, daily-special cuts sell
fast. Stick to the main menu and prices are reasonable for the City,
but going the whole hog on the specials board will significantly
grill your bill. Take refuge in a drinks list holding interest aplenty
via Mezcal Martinis and 100-proof rye Manhattans, along with
a lengthy Bourbon list and sparkling Australian Rieslings.
Pitt Cue's trump cards right now are service and atmosphere;
as this new, larger site beds in, we hope the food quality catches up.
MUST ORDER A loaf of dripping bread to share
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