I had first heard about Lyle’s in August, 2014. I was told it was absolutely amazing, and I needed to try it. I kept trying to go, but life always seemed to get in the way. Finally, about one year later, my partner had some work near Old Street, and he asked me if I wanted to grab dinner. I said yes, and I immediately booked us into Lyle’s. We went and had some of the best tasting (and most interesting) dishes that we’ve had in a long time. We had amazing service with a knowledgeable staff with great wine suggestions. We talked to the chef about how it reminded us of an amazing restaurant in Copenhagen (but probably not the one you’re thinking of), and he said he modeled the concept after it as he loved it as well. I was longing to return. So when he told me he was going to be in the area for work again, I immediately thought about returning to Lyle’s to give them another try and to add a blog post praising the restaurant for everything I remembered it being.
Unfortunately, Lyle’s was a major let down this time around. Since we were there for dinner, we had the four-course set menu. On the menu were Jerusalem artichokes, blood cake, partridge and some sort of pear dessert. We opted to get the supplemental cheese course as well. It all started going downhill when we were trying to order wine and we could barely get anyone’s attention. We were constantly having to flag down anyone so we could put in orders. Honestly, for a place that just received a Michelin star, the service was appallingly bad. So that kind of put us in a bit of a bad mood. Also, when a certain server did walk by the table, he constantly snatched the wine menu off the table, so whenever we wanted to order another glass to go with whatever course was coming next, we first had to flag down a server to bring us the menu back, then flag someone down again to order the wine. Really frustrating. Also when we were out of water, the server would just sort of slam it down in the middle of the table and quickly walk off. Not really what you want to have in the middle of a nice dinner.
The meal began with two snacks. Weirdly, the snacks were a) massive and b) extremely hard to eat. The first one of cured fish required us to use a fork and knife off of one plate. Previously, all the snacks were finger food, and one or two bites, but both of the snacks they provided were very large. The second snack of flatbread with lardo was really nice, but the toppings kept falling off. And it was really huge. Definitely not snack sized.
The Jerusalem artichoke was nice, but it seemed to be lacking something. The cheese sauce with it was really good, but that seemed to be all the course was about. The rest was just a bit of filler. Also the presentation was lacking. Everything seemed a bit slopped on to the plate. The blood cake (basically blood pudding) was quite rich and tasty, but the whole thing kind of lacked the charm of the food on our previous journey. It was probably the best course of the night though. Of course, we were having quite a difficult time getting wine to go with the courses due to terrible service.
When the partridge arrived, we were both disappointed. It was just the breast, and it looked kind of tiny. And it didn’t really taste good either. The partridge was a bit flavorless and grainy. Luckily, they then brought us a second plate of partridge which was the leg meat. That was far better than the breast, but it didn’t really feel like one plate, more like two small plates that didn’t really go together. The cheese was really fantastic, just like the previous time, and the home made crackers to go with were really special. But it’s a cheese course, so it really just involves picking amazing cheeses (something I have to say I’m pretty good at myself).
Dessert was good, but nothing special. Plus we were trying to find wines to go with it, and the waiter just kept saying, “We don’t really have anything that goes.” That’s not really want a customer wants to hear. The after dinner bites were really amazing though, as their brown butter cake is really decadent and the chocolate bites are wonderfully rich and chocolately.
The meal was so frustrating because the first time we came, everything was so amazing, and we had one of the best beef courses we’d had in a long time. This time, everything was all over the place, and the service was really lacking. It’s all rather unfortunate, because it’s now really unlikely I’ll be back. It’s not that it’s really expensive, but for the same price, I can get amazing meals at other places where we’re not constantly having to flag down servers. It’s also unfortunate as it seems really unlikely that this sort of food and service will be able to keep up the Michelin standard into the next year.
Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ