Re­view

An­thony Huck­step rises above Em­bla for the delights of its more so­phis­ti­cated sib­ling, Lesa. Now, if only Lesa would learn to share.

delicious - - CONTENTS -

Is Lesa the place to gather?

I RE­CENTLY DIS­COV­ERED

some­thing about a friend that made me won­der how we ever be­came friends in the first place. Turns out she hates shar­ing food. She prefers her own pile on a plate be­cause, oth­er­wise, she never gets her share. Now, I could sug­gest she gets new friends, but that may jeop­ar­dise our friend­ship.

To break bread to­gether is at the core

of many cul­tures. It’s why I’m sur­prised that at new ven­ture Lesa, the team be­hind The Town Mouse (RIP) and Em­bla, restau­rants all about shared plates, are of­fer­ing an à la

carte menu where guests get their own dish. Not that there’s any­thing wrong with that. The only problem, though, is that chef and co-owner Dave Ver­heul’s dishes de­mand to be shared – which is what we ended up do­ing with each course. A lit­tle re­bel­lious, I know, but the staff obliged. You see, Lesa (‘to gather’ in Old Norse) is the grown-up sib­ling of wine-sling­ing sa­loon Em­bla – where you can get a good feed, but the wine is re­ally the skew.

While down­stairs Em­bla bursts with youth­ful en­ergy, one storey up, Lesa is calm and worldly – though it’s still just as easy­go­ing. Amid ex­posed brick walls, vin­tage fur­ni­ture and a small open kitchen, co-owner Chris­tian McCabe leads a team de­liv­er­ing solid, af­fa­ble ser­vice. His wine list pushes the new fron­tier of wine with­out for­get­ting the Old World.

Ver­heul’s food re­lies on best-in-class produce cooked over fire, fer­mented, aged, or sim­ply left to tell its own tale – and it yearns to be shared. But din­ers can se­lect two or four cour­ses, with up to three dishes in each course to choose from.

Be­fore you start, or­der the doughy de­light of house-baked fer­mented potato flat­bread served with macadamia cream and shi­itake oil. It’s that good. Then comes purple and thinly sliced Chiog­gia beet­root, lay­ered to cre­ate a ter­rine with olive and salted el­der­berry. It’s vis­ually ex­quis­ite, and lovely to eat. And while hazel­nut and green al­mond are a bit dull with diced raw floun­der, the nat­u­ral sweet­ness of grilled leeks shines with horse­rad­ish and the acidic panache of goat’s milk.

Of course, the penny dropped once I placed a slice of pork loin in my pie hole. Cooked slowly above char­coal, the pink flesh is de­light­fully del­i­cate, the glassy crack­ling ter­ri­bly ad­dic­tive. It’s served so sim­ply next to a fried kale leaf hid­ing sautéed kale, pick­led wal­nut and buck­wheat miso. Too rich to not share, but too good to miss out on. Sud­denly ev­ery­thing about Lesa made sense, or at least within this one dish; ev­ery­thing Ver­heul is try­ing to achieve on the plate was man­i­fested in a few mouth­fuls. Lesa has all the hall­marks of great shar­ing feasts, and I won­der how long be­fore they give in and just let peo­ple graze – be­cause they’re sure to gather for it.

FROM LEFT: take flight to Lesa; the decor is warm and invit­ing; salted berg­amot meringue, koji, wal­nut and quince.

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