Peter Morrell enjoys the highly inventive dishes in this popular eatery located in a new South London development
I regularly pass through Elephant and Castle railway station and often stare at the endless building works which have been happening over the last few years. The work is just finishing, and the result is a vibrant 28-acre redevelopment with residential flats, commercial premises, and leisure facilities. One of the landmarks in the new development is Sayer Street, which is a pedestrianised area lined with restaurants. On a prominent corner location in this street is Rarebit.
The restaurant has been opened by co-founders Mark Angell ex Canton Arms and founder of The Rookery on Clapham Common, and Will Nias, who has worked with Mark in the past.
Located in a new building, the restaurant has has bi-fold doors opening onto an alfresco dining area bordering the pedestrianised area, where you can eat and watch the world go by. Inside is a comfortable dining space, and a small shop, where you can buy the food and wine listed in the menu.
As we perused the dishes, my wife enjoyed a quality prosecco, and I had a very citrussy pale ale from the London Beer Factory
The menu is very eclectic, and has been devised by rising star, head chef Liv Lionel. Chef Lionel made a name for herself in Brighton as opening head chef at Lazy Fin, and as head chef at the highly regarded vegetarian and vegan pub, The Prince George. With her experience working at The Breakfast Club, The Flour Pot Bakery, and as pastry chef at Hotel du Vin, her wealth of knowledge and experience has delivered some truly creative and inventive dishes.
First item listed under ‘Snacks’ is the restaurant’s namesake, rarebit. The several other sections have a range of very interesting choices. There are both meat and cheese boards under ‘Table’, and ‘Small Plates’ offers, amongst other things, grilled peach, burrata and thyme, and deep-fried, soft-shell crab.
A couple of examples from ‘Bigger Plates’ are mussels in a coconut curry with sourdough, and Cheviot lamb chop, fresh peas, pearl barley, grape and red wine jus. Greens and potatoes feature in the ‘Sides’ section
After a lot of mind-changing our choices, which we shared, were the rarebit – seared mackerel fillet, pickled fennel, salty fingers, and herb oil – scallop and ‘nduja mac and cheese, in a crab bisque – the London Smoke & Cure meat board – a side of new potatoes in garlic, lemon and herbs.
We started with the rarebit, at this point I realised after all these years, that my mother had lied to me. She gave me cheese on toast and called it rarebit. The real deal has cheese, egg, beer, Worcester sauce, mustard, and cayenne pepper in it. This was a masterful dish, served on sourdough bread it had lots of taste and texture.
Next up was the meat board, supplied by London Smoke and Cure, and a very well stocked board it was. Air dried ham, Italian salami, chorizo, and cured pork (lomo), with grapes, rocket, and sweet pickled onion. This was high on quality, and taste.
A large, seared scallop on a dish of mac and cheese was the next delight, lots of gooey cheese, lifted by the spicy character of the ‘nduja (spreadable sausage), all bound together with a very flavourful crab bisque, this was an inspired combination.
The seared mackerel fillet kept the taste buds alert and interested, the fish was served with salty fingers, a sea vegetable with crunchy nodules that released fresh marine flavours, also on the plate was pickled fennel, which was a foil to the richness of the dfsh. Another inventive combo that worked very well
Finally, the delicious crispy new potatoes had been our companion throughout the entire culinary journey had been lifted with the lemon, garlic and herbs.
There is a well curated wine list, which are listed as the shop price plus a £15 corkage fee, which is very equitable. My wife was happy to stay with the prosecco, but I matched a couple of reds with the food. The 2020 Nekeas, a Tempranillo Garnacha Blend from Navarra in Spain, which had lots of plum, cherry, and oaky vanilla flavours, and the 2020 `Costadune` Frappato from the Mandrarossa Winery in Sicily, an intriguing wine, lots of red summer fruits, a touch of muscat, and with a spicy palate, best served chilled.
Although we were full, the ‘After’ section was tempting – baked figs with Greek yoghurt, honey and walnut, and the Neal’s Yard Dairy cheese board as two of the options.
As well as the all-day menu, an appetising brunch is served between 10 and 4 on Tuesday to Sunday, and there is also a menu for the little ones.
My wife and I liked every aspect of this meal, the lively atmosphere, the dining space, service, and above all the innovative food.
11 Sayer St
London SE17 1FY