Editor's note: in February 2018 it was announced that the restaurant woud close in March 2018.
Ellory opened at the end of 2015 , originally a venture between Matthew Young, chef of the now defunct Mayfields, and sommelier Jack Lewens, who previously worked at Spring and The River Cafe. Both these men themselves departed Ellory in June 2016, with the head chef now being the previous sous-chef, Sam Kamienko.
Ellory is located in Hackney, the nearest tube station being Bethnal Green, just under a mile away. The décor could be described as minimalist, reminiscent of a school canteen, while the same minimalist tendency afflicts the restaurant website, and indeed the menu. There are no elaborate descriptions here, just a list of the main ingredients. Tables are bare and basic, small and crammed together, with hard surfaces contributing to a noisy dining room.
The short wine list ranged in price from £20 to £170, featured fairly obscure growers and majored on natural wines, though there was some relief from this if you scoured the list carefully. Example bottles were Domaine Bellevue Muscadet Gabbro 2015 at £32 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £16, Envinate Mavasia Taganan 2014 at £48 compared to its retail price of £20, and Michel Lafarge Beaune Greves 2003 at £105 for a bottle that will set you back £57 in a shop.
Bread was bought in from the Dusty Knuckle bakery in Hackney - a sourdough with potato that had good flavour and texture. Broccoli with sesame and chilli was excellent, the vegetable precisely cooked and the chilli bringing just enough bite to work harmoniously with the vegetable without overwhelming it (15/20). This was much better than ratte potatoes with cream, trout roe and dill, which were cooked correctly but lacked discernible flavour and indeed any real interest as a dish, I am sad to say (11/20).
For the main course, monkfish was well timed, served with very good spinach, chestnuts and pumpkin. This was a coherent dish, nicely executed (14/20). By contrast pork with plum and turnip sauce and radiccio was a case study in dubious dish design. Some dishes in restaurants fail due to technical execution such as overcooking, but others are simply doomed due to their elements being inherently out of balance. The pork here was cooked properly but the sauce was cloyingly sweet. Combining meat with a hint of sweetness like pork with a sweet sauce is inevitably going to be problematic to say the least, and the radiccio was not enough to properly balance the dish. Meat like pork or duck cries out for a balancing element that is either acidic or sour, but not for more sweetness. Even if the best chef in the world was at the stoves, say Joel Robuchon happening to be doing an unlikely stage in the kitchen and cooking this dish, it was still not going to work. Nothing on earth was going to make this dish successful (barely 11/20).
Desserts were unmemorable. Quince with shortbread was, well, a slab of quince with a biscuit. I am not sure to whom this would appeal, but it did nothing for me, though the biscuit was decent enough (11/20). Chocolate dessert with pistachio and crème fraiche was better, the nuts working nicely with the soft chocolate, but this was no more than pleasant (12/20). Coffee was fine.
Our Israeli waitress was very good, but even her limitless charm could not disguise a bill of £123 a head, admittedly with copious wine. If you shared a modest bottle then your bill would still end up at around £65 a head, which seems to me an awful lot of money for the level of food that appeared. The broccoli dish suggested a flicker of talent in the kitchen, but there were too many dishes that seemed unlikely to ever work. I am unsure whether Ellory was better under its previous chef under its brief tenure or not, but I struggle with the value for money factor here.