It’s become cool, of late, to bitch about anywhere in London that isn’t Zone 1. Camberwell Church St? Skuzz hole. The Walworth Road? Stabsville. But in reality, these are places which have provided me with some really decent meals recently.
Lewisham is next on my out-of-central-travels – an intriguing area which seems to consist of a shopping centre, a canal which smells of stagnant water and a huge roundabout. Sparrow, a restaurant from husband and wife team Terry Blake and Yohini Nandakumar, sits on said roundabout.
Inside, there’s an open kitchen, a worn down interior and tightly packed tables. The windows are steamed-up and the atmosphere is lively – if you took someone on a date it would likely end in a relationship.
The menu, consisting of smaller and larger plates all for sharing, reads well. We start with soft boiled eggs, pork and anchovy relish and crispy shallots (£5.50). It’s a most unusual blend of texture and flavour but it’s lovely. The fluorescent orange yolks have pure sex appeal.
A kohlrabi salad (£7.50) comes with masses of tiny brown shrimp which bring a salty seafood wallop in only the very best way. They make kohlrabi taste interesting for once. Rabbit rillettes (£8.50) come with a super sweet prune jam which is a perfect companion for the rabbit paste.
Fried chicken “tulips” (£7.50), which refers to the way it’s prepared, with the bone acting as the stalk and the chicken being the flower, has a sweet satay sauce which brings the whole thing to life. It’s gluten free too.
Malt duck (£13.50) is tender as anything. The skin isn’t crisp but it doesn’t matter; its soft and gelatinous texture is moreish. The chilli jam is another level. Roast pork belly (£12) has the sort of crackling your Mum never quite managed to master. It comes with harissa for a touch of spice.
Grilled lamb shoulder (£13.50) isn’t quite as magical. It comes with beans, and I hate beans, but they weren’t listed on the menu. And the meat, although pink in parts, is overcooked and dry.
Dessert brings it back; condensed milk panna cotta (£5.50), all blobby and creamy with sharp poached rhubarb to cut through it all. Whoever made this enjoys eating puddings.
We really loved Sparrow – it was a touch of Soho in Lewisham – which is no bad thing. Terry and Yohini met whilst working at St John Smithfield – and you can really see that in their cooking. Go for the eggs if nothing else.
Would we go back? Yes
We dined as guests of the restaurant