This is a restaurant that would need lots of introduction – why this space, this decor, this much pork? – if it weren’t for the founder, who needs little.
For his next trick, Jason Atherton’s turning an unhelpfully-shaped wedge of space – already stone-chucking distance from one of his restaurants – into a bar, restaurant and ‘less formal’ dining experience than his other London venues.
Being this near his City Social restaurant on Old Broad Street should feel like overkill, but Atherton has reason to think that however many he builds, they will come – his Pollen Street Social and Berners Tavern venues constantly packed in a warm, buzzing way.
Temple and Sons isn’t there yet, still a bit echoey with empty tables upstairs on our visit, but it’s early days and a weekday evening. Decorated along Victorian British grocery shop lines, the windows are stacked with mustard jars and condiment bottles, retro typography telling you about fresh meats, canned fish and sweet puddings.
The design nods come thick and fast enough enough to drop the upstairs restaurant half of Temple and Sons – a bit less the bar on the ground floor – into the borderlands where inspired-by meets full-on, balls-out themed. It’s cosy, though, which is an impressive feat when you’re towered over by skyscrapers and cranes, with the damp, wet March night drizzling down on the glass roof panels and big windows.
Several of the most interesting-looking dishes on the menu are unremittingly porky – the pork Haslet ‘mining food’ starter, the main courses of wood-fired pork chop, collar and crackling with a sage crumb, the side dish of campfire barbequed beans laced with bacon… ‘Nduja-sauce pasta. Pork belly sandwich. Pig’s head and trotter fritters. It’d be not just possible but dangerously easy to take a solely-pork path through eight tenths of the menu and emerge half a pig later, somewhere near the desserts. We try to strike a middle-route – between entirely pork and not enough pork – and wind up with the pork, apple and black pudding sausage roll main course, and a side of barbeque beans with bacon.
Dishes are a mix of instant, memorable hits and slightly ‘meh’ squibs, but with more of the former. The puntarelle salad’s oddly bland – puntarelle’s too hard to source and fiddly to prepare to bother serving it if you’re not going to make it striking – and the fish stew’s a mix of the beautifully tender and the rubbery. Those aside, our dinner’s a series of generously-sized portions of big flavours. The beans are campfire-smoky, crusted with melted cheese. The sausage roll arrives with velvety mashed potato, the richness of black pudding and the strong, vinegary punch of HP gravy in perfect balance. This, and the Valhrona chocolate mousse we end with, are the dishes you can expect to be copied by restaurants over London in five years – but till then justify a visit, for their sake alone, to the only place in London serving them.
Temple and Sons, 22, Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ. 0207 8777710. Website.