Lupins in London | Photo: LupinsLondon.com
Picture a heap of zesty, crisp spring onions, lightly fried in so tiny a sprinkling of cornflour as to almost, almost satiate the appetite.
Random, but they became a cult favorite within weeks of the achingly cool eatery Lupins opening in South London last year. And it’s not hard to see why.
Veggie dishes don’t get more delicious than this; I found them almost painfully good, essentially because they left me wanting more. When, in my book, a good starter should leave you momentarily satisfied.
That said, I’m always hungry – I’m the kind of person whose grew up with bread and butter with every meal. And indeed I did with this one: delightfully dense, sharp sourdough, fresh enough to be easy to chew. It came with a moreish spread that could’ve been made purely of nuts, but was actually brown butter.
But to be fair, the onions are listed on Lupins’ minimal menu as a ‘snack’, rather than a starter, and the ‘mains’ as ‘small plates’. This is a highly deliberate choice of wording that diners would be wise to heed. Because, although friendly, the laid back staff I dealt with didn’t necessarily communicate this message clearly.
Nevertheless, the onions, served with a punchy chipotle mayonnaise, were an informative introduction to the unique Lupins experience. Like the menu, the food is very light and delicate, but pleasingly so, and perfect for the warmer months.
Indeed, we visited one evening late last summer, and the large windows on the upper level cast a gorgeous light on the orangey wooden floors and table tops. They reminded me, nostalgically, of a primary school. However, the rumbling sound of trains destined for nearby London Bridge brought me right back to adult reality.
The portions, meanwhile, are small and designed to be shared. Thus, we’d recommend ordering as many as you can. Fortunately the most expensive clocks in at only £10 (€11.45, $13.51). That’s currently the spiced beef short rib with purple sprouting broccoli
Unlike tapas, these dishes aren’t swimming in oil to make you feel guilty, or laden with carbs that weigh you down. Even the burrata – a bulbous slab of mind-blowing mozzarella – tasted light as a feather. Ours was served artfully with cured pork leg and rocket; its current incarnation is with ‘pea and fennel, mint gremolata and lardo’.
In fact, most of it is impeccably healthy. It will appeal to superfood-loving millennial foodies who are mindful of what they eat. Thus, my guest demanded we order the charred hispi cabbage – my least favorite vegetable – on account of it being a very ‘it’ food. She inhaled it and described it as ‘delicious.’
The cabbage is now absent from the menu, but is indicative of the restaurant’s creativity with vegetables. The tangy stone bass, meanwhile, has been replaced with sea trout. The rich, creamy Cornish carb thermidor, however, remains, and is recommended.
When dessert came around, I did still feel hungry, so made the rare decision to defy my sweet tooth. I opted for the fabulous cheese plate from Neal’s Yard, an artisanal retailer based just north of the Thames.
That said, my guest and I shared it, along with the since dearly departed dark chocolate mousse. Laced with sesame and salted caramel, it was another perfectly formed, minimalist dish that packed in several explosive tastes. It’s been switched (although I bet not forever) with another featuring supremely trendy ingredients: rhubarb with ginger.
A rotating menu isn’t the only change I’ve spied – in the months since we visited, the prices have become more affordable. The crab is slightly cheaper while the onion dish is down from £7 (€8.02, $9.46) to a far more reasonable £4 (€4.58, $5.41).
For more information, visit LupinsLondon.com.