New Bloomsbury arrival Neptune is red hot – simply because of who is running the kitchen. Back in 2006 chef Brett Redman opened a little place called Elliot’s in Bethnal Green, followed by the Pavilion in Victoria Park a year later. Their success led to a more hi-falutin version of Elliot’s launching in Borough Market, still one of our go-tos in SE1.
And yet Redman didn’t stop there: wildly popular yakitori joint Jidori in Dalston came next, and you may also remember now-closed seafood restaurant The Richmond, at the intersection of Dalston and Hackney. He closed that last autumn, with one intention – to focus energies on this very glam WC1 opening within the Principal Hotel.
On our Friday lunchtime visit, the sun pours through big windows into an interior of curving banquettes and discreet tables. The bar is a relaxed space, where we enjoy a white negroni (Light Side Of the Moon), almost sherbert-lemon in colour, made with French gentian bitters. The lunch menu is two courses for £20, a reasonable deal for this part of town; but be warned, a la carte is substantially pricier.
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5 dishes to try
Plaice, peas, ham
Crisp, golden-skinned, a trio of soft, opaque fillets straddle a vivid jumble of braised lettuce. It’s by turns rich, textural and crunchy (when did little gems get so upscale?), with ribbons of ham in a loose pea sauce, thinner where the oil has just separated.
The half-lobby is a signature. It costs another £12 on the set lunch menu, but is worth it for a naughty blow-out. The white meat is butter-soft, the hints of ginger subtle yet present, as if the spice is warming the flesh and gently twisting the flavour. There’s samphire, sage and Cornish mids making it more filling than you might imagine.
It doesn’t scream at you from the list of sides, but this bowl of leaves cleanly cuts through the rich buttery notes in the mains, its chive, herby dressing tingly on the ’buds. And there’s no need to order the triple-cooked chips in beef dripping – although we do. Whoops.
A non-piscine starter, this sees chunks of tomatoes from Vesuvius, considered the world’s best as they’re grown in volcanic soil, perch on a loose goo of soft cheese, adorned with slithers of melon and mint. You’ll need to order the dense brown bread with seaweed butter to mop it up with.
While roast apricot with ripple ice cream is sound enough, it’s the grapefruity notes of Asian fruit yuzu, combined with meringue on a pastel de nata style tart, that’s our top tip for the sweet-of-tooth.
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Set lunch £20 for two, £23 for three courses, Neptune, corner of Guilford Street and Russell Square WC1. More here.
Main image: Carol Sachs
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Gasholder is another cultural guide from London Belongs to Me Ltd. It's available monthly in print and daily online as part of a network of such publications, each passionately dedicated to the capital's neighbourhoods. Find out more about Gasholder,