When it comes to eating out in our beloved Big Smoke, it’s easy to gravitate to the big names or the new openings. But what about all the other places, born out of real passion and a desire to do great things with food, that go unnoticed? Don’t they deserve some of our care and attention?
That said, it’s hard to tell which camp The Laughing Gravy falls into. It’s had its fair share of attention, has been reviewed countless times and can boast David Attenborough among its list of patrons. But it’s still got a kind of humility that comes from being perhaps less central than some and maybe less shouty than others.
Just down the road from Southwark and Waterloo stations, the light, airy restaurant is all about the food. Head Chef Michael Facey has worked alongside the likes of John Torode and Mark Hix and has constructed a menu that ticks all the boxes that really are musts these days – from tried and tested flavour combinations to creativity and confidence, plus the all-important seasonal and local produce.
It may have been lunchtime on a weekday but my friend and I decided to go all out and fill ourselves with three courses. I started with braised lamb and wild garlic infused dumplings served with a lamb broth – a combination of traditional and ‘different’, simultaneously full of good old British flavours yet delicate and light.
Our fish main courses were both a triumph. My pan-fried cod came with mussels and a pea risotto. All cooked perfectly, the fresh taste of spring and the sea were complemented by a slightly piquant sauce. My pal’s salmon with wilted spinach and white asparagus was equally appealing – a well-balanced dish that was just right for the warm day we attended.
It’s impossible not to mention the presentation at the Laughing Gravy. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is anything like a gastropub or pub. This is restaurant food at its best, and the TLC that goes into every part of each dish – including how it appears on the plate – shines through.
Nowhere was this more obvious than with the desserts. A simply described ‘apple and cinnamon cheesecake’ was on a whole new level. Deconstructed into various elements and intricately arranged on the plate along with an artistic splash of coulis, it wouldn’t have looked out of place down the road in the Tate Modern.
And if there was any concern that the Laughing Gravy’s dishes might be ‘style over substance’, the salted caramel mousse put pay to that. A filled caramac cylinder topped with chocolate rum ganache and shortbread alongside, it was a sugar-filled treat of the kind you imagine Willy Wonka himself would come up with and delicious in every possible way you would imagine.
All of this marvellous food was eaten in the light, relaxing surroundings that somehow make you want to stay for hours. That and a well thought-out wine list, great service, and you’ve got yourself the kind of place that may not do a lot of shouting but doesn’t need to. Because once you’ve been, I’m fairly sure you’ll want to tell people about it.
The Laughing Gravy, 154 Blackfriars Rd, London SE1 8EN. Nearest station – Southwark