It’s been roughly six months since I ate out in a restaurant for work and boy have things changed.
Hand sanitation stations have become the norm, wondering what the waiter looks like from the bridge of the nose down an added addition to the menu, and widely spaced tables a must – a financial peril for restaurateurs but a joy for diners who can catch up over small plates without the next table listening in (although, on the flip-side I kind of miss eavesdropping on others and surreptitious food envy spying).
Nevertheless, restaurants, on the most part, are back, and as someone who tests out the city’s menus or a living (I know, pinch me), I’m thrilled.
My six month abstinence came to an end last week with a gem of an alfresco pop-up in the shape of Elliot’s.
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The Borough Market restaurant is nothing new. In fact, I realised, as I bit down into their gloriously gooey signature cheese puffs (more on those later) that I’d been there before and eaten the delightful little things some five years previously. But this year, they’re doing things a little differently to coincide with new COVID-friendly rules.
First of all, they’ve taken up a pop-up space just outside Borough’s famous Ginger Pig butchers.
Covered by the market roof you’re protected should the heavens open (likely) but definitely still dining al fresco, to milk out these warm summer nights we’re being blessed with as much as possible. Plus, the hustle and bustle of Borough makes you feel like you might, just might, almost, be on holiday. Those six month’s off have really made me realise just how brilliant our little foodie pockets of the city are and Borough is without a doubt one of the best.
Elliot’s utilise that, making a chunk of their menu from produce direct from some of the market’s sellers and mixing it with some of the finest fresh fruit and veg growers, fishermen and farmers from across the UK and Europe.
They embrace the small plate and simple but quality, unadulterated ingredients. They love the lick of an open flame and unfussy dishes that I like to cook at home (or dream of cooking at home), only better, and they’ve definitely nailed that “I know this great little place” vibe you can pull out when someone suggests dinner but you don’t want anything too fancy or expensive.
In short, a gem of an independent restaurant only fully appreciated after six long months of slaving over my own stove.
Their summer pop-up, sweetly named the Ell Fresco Pop-Up, subscribes to much the same concept, with an easy to navigate menu of snacks and small plates, followed by 10 inch wood-fired pizzas and charred meat and fish from the wood grill, sinkable spritzers and a couple of puddings – basically summer wrapped up in a menu.
To begin, I had those aforementioned Isle of Mull cheese puffs – four cheeses married together, breaded and fried into pillowy puffs of joy. So popular are these little guys that Elliot’s have kept them on the menu since day dot and so good are they that one taste actually reminded me that I’d eaten them some, maybe, five years previous. Safe to say I’ll be back just for those alone.
Elliot's love the lick of an open flame and unfussy dishes that I like to cook at home (or dream of cooking at home), only better, and they’ve definitely nailed that “I know this great little place” vibe.
There’s also a garlic butter calzone on the menu which is, as it sounds, essentially a folded pizza filled with a tonne of melted garlic butter inside waiting to drizzle out. If you’re with a small group, it’s the perfect snack to pair with Elliot’s summer spritzers that are on the menu, but for two it was a little stodgy.
Next up we tried the langoustine grilled to perfection and the star dish, the clams and green peppercorn butter – the calzone would have come in handy to mop up the excess sauce the plate was swimming in had we not already polished it off.
And then there are the pizzas. Ten inches, so ideal for sharing between two as part of a meal, wood fired to get those gorgeous black cindered bubbles forming on the edge and topped with a range of really simple but delicious toppings. We tried the pepperoni, ‘nduja and gorgonzola dolce, but with the gorgonzola subbed for mozzarella (pregnancy diet much to my dismay), but it was still good, with a side of butterhead and tarragon salad. Absolutely drenched in zesty dressing, it was far from a healthy salad but definitely worth an order.
If you’re drinking, Elliot’s have teamed up with SELECT Aperitivo for the summer to create some delicious Venetian Spritzes – we might not be travelling to Italy but an outdoor, buzzy terrace, spritzes flowing and fresh pizzas is just about as close as you can get right now. Keep it simple with damn good Negronis or the Campari & Watermelon spritz which, I’m told, was utterly delicious and a little too sinkable. If you’re not drinking alcohol, the house-made lemonade is lovely too.
I finished off with my all time favourite dessert, tiramisu. Meaning “pick me up” in Italian that’s exactly what Elliot’s summer pop-up is, a little pick me up and the perfect way to ease yourself back into the restaurant scene after six long months away.
Elliot’s, 12 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AD