Justin Leboe’s latest—Pigeonhole—is announced with red fluorescent block lettering mounted directly on top of still legible, vintage sign beneath.
That charming coexistence of old and new is a theme that carries on within. The previous restaurant tenant, Victoria, left behind its basic bones, tabletops and an eye-catching chandelier. The white marble used to make the beautiful bar up front is reclaimed from another site.
Start your evening right and you’ll order a cocktail that was hot stuff about a century ago. (Say, a Maiden’s Prayer no. 2.) Which is just when chef Leboe appears, to yank you back into 2016—and beyond. The culinary thinking here is not vegetarian but vegetableforward. And even when vegetables are the star, the kitchen is not doctrinaire and will happily welcome a little meat onto the plate if it helps the cause. For example, a salad of celeriac ribbons topped with blue cheese also gets sprinkled with bacon (good thinking!). Other small plates don’t need the leg-up—like the inspired tangle of spaghetti squash, its strands lightly dried for texture, comes dressed with a creamy emulsion of chorizo seasonings and—for body—a lashing of chopped Marcona almonds in place the expected pork. Nori-flavoured crumpets with shrimp butter sound absurd, but taste divine. A slab of cabbage, pan-roasted ever so slowly, charred on a Japanese grill, and doused in shavings of mimolette is an umami bomb.
If you want meat (and when you see these next ones, you will), have the confit of double-length short rib, or the braised veal with umeboshi. The wine list is heavy on natural wines and unusual choices.