Upstairs at the Ten Bells, is the quintessential East End trendy pop-up, though we’re not sure that it can justifiably be called that anymore, having been around since June 2012. Despite some PR to say that the team are looking to open-up at the refurbished Shoreditch Town Hall, the restaurant is still going strong in the pub that Jack the Ripper made his infamous drinking hole. Not that Jack would recognise it. The bar, downstairs, is a boisterous mix of Shoreditch types, tattoos, avant-garde haircuts. Upstairs, their sedate bobo older brothers/sisters, perhaps even parents, intent on eating fashionable food in an art laden space, without ‘brick licking’ gimmicks. Service is extremely friendly and guests are seated at vintage tables, which are sometimes communal.
Chefs Isaac McHale and Giorgio Ravelli are clearly intent on presenting weekly menus of good looking plates with clean, individual flavours. A very on-trend crushed parsley root and almond braised salad is a great starter, with bitterness, crunch and a refreshing finish. The marinated mackerel on an oversized blinni is also simple yet effective offering.
Mains wise, the same level of flavour and lightness is present, but the combinations and execution are stepped-up. The Cornish hake is well browned in the pan while keeping its luxurious texture. It’s off-set by the deep flavour of brown shrimps and some irony spinach. Even better though is the roasted mallard, which is perfectly cooked with a divine Jerusalem artichoke purée, which is good enough to stand-up to Claude Bossi’s at Hibiscus.
Upstairs hasn’t been rated up Michelin, and may not be around long enough make it into the guide, but it certainly delivers a style of cooking/dining that we are seeing more and more of in London. A sort of Mich*tronony, of British bistro-style cuisine pushing to a higher level, but served in a casual environment; The Corner Room in Bethnal Green is certainly another example of this. We think that this may be a bit of a growing trend and will be keeping an eye on it. In the meanwhile, we are very pleased to give Upstairs an ‘above expectation’ review for a chic, casual dining experience – well done.