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What's the deal?
What is a “neighbourhood restaurant”? Well, in our minds, it’s somewhere with a small enough dining space that service feels extra personal; a menu of approachable dishes done very well; just the right buzz level so that it’s never overcrowded; and the ability to satisfy most meal briefs, from a spontaneous weekday dinner to a long, leisurely Sunday lunch.
On all those counts, Eline delivers. Run by ex-Popham duo Alex Reynolds and Maria Viviani (chef and wine connoisseur, respectively), the restaurant has taken up residency at the bottom of a typically lacklustre block of new-build flats. But don’t judge a book by its cover, as they say – once inside, the vibe warms up significantly, with light-catching limewash walls, flickering candles, and a spacious-but-not-capacious dining room. It’s instantly inviting, and the staff – as affable as they are knowledgeable – make it all the more so.
Food-wise, it’s all about satiating, elegant dishes that marry Reynolds’ French heritage (the restaurant is named after her French grandmother) with straightforwardly delicious British cooking. The very short menu is edited heavily each week to accommodate the best produce available, but expect variations on some themes – cheese croquettes, a savoury pie, a chocolatey tart. The Western Europe-leaning wine list – composed exclusively of low-intervention varieties – is surprisingly affordable, with bottles starting at £29. Near the entrance, there’s a dinky little wine shop called Kimchi (named for Reynolds and Viviani’s dog) where you can pick up a pet-nat or two on the way out. It all adds up to a welcoming, dependable restaurant with high-quality, wholehearted cooking. As far as neighbours go, Eline is a welcome one.
What should I eat?
Though the menu changes weekly, you can always count on a few very solid veg-based dishes, like the perfectly-assembled leek, pear, and walnut tart: walnut pieces, raw leek, and pear slices all piled into a shattering pastry then dusted with a snowing of Stichelton cheese.
The braised lamb shoulder perfectly encapsulates Eline’s M.O. – a careful (but not finicky) plate of tenderly braised lamb shoulder wrapped in cabbage and served with potato rosti and pickled onions. Humble building blocks yielding great results.
Dessert is strictly necessary here – this time around, it’s an orange cake that tastes like a grown-up Jaffa Cake, spongy and bright with a melty layer of dark chocolate on top.
Why should I go?
For a hospitable and heartfelt meal at a humane price.
1C, Rosewood Building, Cremer St, London E2 8GX