Upstairs at the Ten Bells is a restaurant above a pub directly opposite Spitalfields market – a rather splendid location then. This started as a three month pop up by The Young Turks and The Clove Club but after a tremendous amount of popularity, it’s staying for good.
Three of the original line up – Daniel Willis, Johnny Smith and Isaac Mchale run the shop now with head chef Giorgio Ravelli running the kitchen (who worked at The Ledbury and Noma so he must be good).
The restaurant was beautifully unusual. A neon Tracy Emin proudly hung on the wall and we were aptly seated below a large framed picture of one man tweaking another man’s nipple – this place was right up our street. It’s worth noting that due to a limited amount of tables – when it’s busy you may have to share a table if there’s 2 of you.
A mini sliced sourdough loaf with a slab of unsalted butter kicked things off brilliantly. It was warm and we gladly scoffed the lot (once I’d sprinkled some salt on the butter).
The menu was simply presented on a small piece of paper with four choices for each course. We decided to order the buttermilk chicken and pine salt (£5.20) from the snack section to start things off. Little chunks of deep fried chicken sat on top of pine leaves and tasted phenomenal. The herby batter was crunchy yet the chicken inside was moist and succulent – it was the sort of thing you could eat all day long. And then all night. And then the following day.
We were then very kindly brought some poached rock oysters, Hendricks botanicals and cucumber (normally £2.50 each) as a gift from the kitchen .This was my first time having a warm oyster – and what a way to lose my warm oyster virginity. The oyster was delicate with some freshness from the cucumber and a slight bitterness from the gin which all worked together brilliantly.
The kitchen’s generosity continued with a gift of cured mackerel, speck, endive and pomegranate (normally £6.30). Mackerel and pomegranate – how have I never seen this done before?! It really was a winning combination of flavours – and the mackerel was so soft it was a delight to eat.
My starter of treacle glazed lamb sweetbreads (the animal’s glands), cauliflower and anchovy (£6.70) was delicious. The sweetbreads were cooked to perfection and had a sweet sticky coating to them. The anchovies had been made into a tangy purée and were served alongside mini florets of crunchy cauliflower – pure perfection.
My gentleman companion’s chestnut and truffle soup, Brussel sprouts and celeriac (£6.40) was a seriously fine bowl of soup. So light it was almost foamy – the soup had a real depth of flavour and earthiness from the truffle that made it totally moreish.
My main of braised beef shin, celeriac, broccoli and pickled walnut (£16.70) lead me to a near beef induced orgasm – it was so soft and tender it melted in my mouth. The broccoli purée tasted even better than broccoli itself (somehow) and worked perfectly with the beef.
My gentleman companion’s spatzle, butternut sqush, traviso and taleggio cheese (£14.20) was a triumph. Spatzle is a type of egg noodle and we found the texture of them to be like thin strips of pancake – they were totally delicious. The spatzle with the rich cheesy sauce and the sweet butternut squash would keep any vegetarian happy – forever.
We decided to share the two desserts. The apple and ale fritter (or the ‘bitter fritter’ as they like to call it) créme fraîche and parkin crumbs (£6.50) was brilliant. The fritters, sprinkled with sugar, had a crunchy coating which was not at all greasy and the apple inside was perfectly soft. The tangy créme fraîche mousse had an almost marshmallow like consistency and was a great accompaniment.
The pear and thyme salad, coffee crumbs and honey ice cream (£5.80) was very unusual indeed and although it wasn’t my gentleman companion’s favourite thing, I thought it was seriously good. Slices of grilled and raw pears, sliced celery and thyme leaves all soothed by a sweet honey ice cream was very clever indeed. The crunchy slightly bitter coffee crumbs were a great contrast. I think savoury desserts are the way forward – they are exciting and unusual and this pud was certainly that.
Service throughout our lunch at Upstairs at the Ten Bells was faultless. Restaurant manager Jarrod Cooke really was the perfect host – friendly and chatty and he knew everything there was to know about the food we had been served. The charming service cemented the fact that this restaurant really is brilliant. The food, the room, the atmosphere and the FOH is truly wonderful. I can’t stop gushing about it.