London’s Old Street Silicon Roundabout is the centre of the Tech Hub that is meant to rival California with lots of spacey new buildings.
The M by Montcalm Hotel is one of those and inside is Plate Restaurant created by chef Arnaud Stevens whose pedigree includes Sixtyone and The Gherkin. There’s a cocktail bar on the ground floor, serving snacks, with the restaurant proper on the first. Design is modern brash with lots of shiny surfaces.
In fact, because of this, our night starts off rather badly. We have a table by the stairs and the house music from the bar downstairs makes conversation almost impossible.
Fortunately, the diners who are here for the early bird Ribs and Wings £10 offer are emptying out and we move to a quieter table with a great view of the open kitchen.
It seems a shame to ignore the skills of the cocktail bar’s mixologist so my companion opts for the Plate Elixir, a combination of vodka, peach liquor, cherry liquor, champagne and chestnut cream, with tiny Italian cherries on top. I go for a Too dirty to be a Martini which contains a large olive, with a sprig of Rosemary attached, and suddenly we’re both in a better mood.
Things improve further when the three strong bread flight arrives. As we subsequently find out everything served is made on the premises and the sourdough, brioche and marmite bread all come from their own artisan bakery. They’re accompanied by a trio of butters – balsamic, caramelised shallot and whipped and we argue about which is for which.
Mercifully the menu is short, always a good sign, and we peer at the dishes coming out of the kitchen to spot the best option. I go for the Chapel & Swan smoked salmon Scotch egg with wasabi mayonnaise, a technical marvel as the yolk is still gloriously runny inside. We also share a salt baked beetroot salad with Barkham blue cheese, candied walnuts, and thin discs of pickled beetroot, imaginatively arranged on the plate
Main courses include Josper grilled steaks and burgers but also a couple of vegetarian options. My companion is intrigued by the roasted freekeh with Jerusalem artichoke, pied bleu mushrooms, hazelnuts and coriander and it’s a good choice. The artichoke and the mushrooms offer a boost of flavours to the neutral freekeh, basically giant grains of couscous.
There’s also a traditional battered cod and chips but, far more interesting is the pan-fried stone bass. It’s a big chunk of perfectly cooked fish with crispy skin, resting on a smoked celeriac and mussel sauce accompanied by a flattened braised chicory with hazelnuts. I like this a lot.
We also order potatoes covered in a crème Fraiche, flavoured with chervil and dill, but the standout is Josper peppered leeks. They’re served whole and the outsides have been deliciously blackened, even burnt, to deliver a huge oomph of flavour. Add butter and chopped shallots and you have something the Welsh would kill for. Maybe that’s why they don’t provide a sharp knife for dividing them up on the plate.
The desserts don’t disappoint either. My pear frangipane tart is a light combination of almonds and egg, as good as you’d find in any decent French patisserie and topped with anise ice cream. The sticky toffee pudding is a nice twist on the British classic and uses salted caramel in the sauce. There’s also a delicious dollop of Madagascan vanilla ice cream
Throughout our meal, I’ve been watching the quiet efficiency of Chef Josh Dawson and his brigade in the kitchen. A restaurant in a hotel is often an excuse for mediocrity as there’s always an easy supply of customers. More, a menu which includes burgers, ribs and wings, could easily give the wrong impression. In fact, the food here, as they say in the Michelin world, is well worth a detour.
Tell Me More About Plate Restaurant
At M by Montcalm,151-157 City Road
Shoreditch, London EC1V 1JH
T:020 3837 3102