|Wild Mushroom Tart|
at 40 Maltby Street
The dish pictured above wouldn't be out of place in a top restaurant. However, I ate it in an unpretentious wine bar resounding to the rumbling of trains overhead. Menus are chalked on boards. Paper napkins come from a dispenser. Perching stools line the bar and bare tables on a painted concrete floor. The railway arch is given character by an original unframed Harry Darby artwork or two. Hardly star-making surroundings. Just a place where all the attention is on the food and wine - and there just happens to be a Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen.
Chef Steve Williams has a CV which includes The Square, The Ledbury, and The Anchor and Hope and earned his star at The Harwood Arms in 2011, making it the first Michelin starred pub in London. Leaving in 2012 to travel and cook, Williams spent a few months contentedly foraging and cooking at Harry Lester's Auberge du Chassignolle, deep in the Auvergne. Happily for me, he's now back in London cooking at my favourite bar, 40 Maltby Street, making customers very happy.
It's almost 2 years since I first wrote about 40 Maltby Street. Back then it was simply a Friday night dinner venue which served to showcase Gergovie Wines, albeit with a great chef, Dave Cook, in the small kitchen off the bar. It's grown up a bit since then and, I have to say, has matured nicely. Any place that has managed to attract people at least once a week - I promise you I'm not the only one - for 2 years is certainly deserving of a second review in my book.
|Pollack at 40 Maltby Street|
|Roast Pork at 40 Maltby Street|
Apart from being sure the food will be seasonal and impeccably sourced, you can never predict what dishes will be chalked on the blackboard. Possibly a broth; maybe chicken with wild garlic; or lamb with barley and greens; sometimes a Venison or Mock Squab pie or an Onion tart with Lancashire cheese. Often there's a roast and, maybe, a salt-baked fish. There could be Egg mayonnaise, Leek and mussel gratin, Brandade in crispy potato skins, Croquettes, Mushroom tart or Anchovies, kohlrabi and mint. There are always British cheeses, terrines or a plate of charcuterie, and almost always a baked ham on the counter. Last Saturday a simple-looking dish of broccoli, soft-boiled egg and hollandaise sauce with toasted almonds was made outstanding by the use of brown butter and sweet-sour Moscatel vinegar. Pearly flakes of perfectly cooked pollock came with buttery, soft leeks dressed with bacon and chervil, the necessary crunch provided by roast potato.
Seasonal puddings could be Prune and Lemon or, maybe, Damson soufflé, Apple pie fritters, Eve's Pudding, Steamed Treacle sponge with custard, Frangipane tarts, Lemon Posset. I could go on, but I'll spare you the torture. I'm shocked to find I have no recent photos of the puddings. Clearly I just couldn't wait to tuck in. There's usually a number of meat and fish-free dishes. Everything is made in the small open kitchen with skill, passion and generosity.
|Menu at 40 Maltby Street|
40 Maltby Street draws a diverse crowd from off-duty chefs, through arts and media folk to local residents. Housed in a railway arch beneath the London Bridge to Dover line, it is about a 10-minute walk east of London Bridge Station. It's a wine bar with food so don't expect fancy service, though it is always professional. What you will get is a warm welcome, great wines and food worthy of a Michelin star, all in simple surroundings. It makes me very happy every week.
40 Maltby Street
London SE1 3PA
Open: Wednesday and Thursday 5.30-10pm
Friday 12.30-2pm and 5.30-10pm