After his first visit, one restaurant-industry insider commented that Young Turks at the Ten Bells would be rated as ‘the coolest thing on the planet’ if it were in NYC. Well, we’ve eaten at this extended pop-up in East London, and we can tell you: it is truly, effortlessly cool. But hey up – it’s friendly and fun, too.
The close-knit young team behind it are as warm and humorous as a bunch of hard-working restaurateurs can be, creating an atmosphere that’s electric yet relaxed, and pulling in plenty of regulars, who score several tables at once.
There’s a lot we love about this restaurant, from the secretive location – weave through the crowd at the Ten Bells pub, climb the back stairs, and you’re hit with this incredible atmosphere – to the art (yup, that’s a Tracey Emin neon) and the music: the front-of-house chaps have DJ/producer alter egos. But the element that justifies the hype is, quite rightly, the food. Chefs Isaac McHale and James Lowe have worked, between them, at the Ledbury, the Fat Duck, St John Bread & Wine, Noma… and they make seasonal British food exciting. We loved every mouthful.
The fixed menu, £39, not including wine, changes weekly (hence all those eager regulars), and kicks off with mouthwatering snacks, like buttermilk fried chicken in pine salt or devilled sprats. As these appeared, accompanied by good bread and butter, we made ourselves at home at our shared table and tried not to people-watch too flagrantly. A sequence of three mains, such as perfect hay-smoked trout, a superb dish of duck egg with chestnuts and chicken hearts, or Old Spot pork belly with molasses and radish, add up to very good value.
If you don’t fancy the waiting list, listen out for tables coming free at short notice, especially at weekends, or – and this is what we did – just happen to be in the Ten Bells having a G&T at 9pm, any night Monday–Saturday, and pop up to see if they’ve got room in half an hour. Perfect if you want to go out afterwards, perfect if you don’t…