Editor's note: in November 2022 Simon Bonwich left this pub.
The Princess of Shoreditch is part of the Noble Inns pub group. In September 2022 the reins of the kitchen passed from Ruth Hanson to the latest head chef, Simon Bonwick. Simon previously ran the Crown at Burchetts Green, where he gained a Michelin star for his mostly classical French dishes, while cooking entirely on his own in the kitchen. At The Princess of Shoreditch he has some help. Charlie Bonwick, one of Simon’s nine children, is manning the garde manger (cold dish) section of the kitchen, which also has pastry chef Emily Collins, who has stayed on from the previous regime, and trained at the Cordon Bleu cookery school. These three chefs cook for around sixty customers at any one time. The dining area is split into two sections. Part is in the main bar area for those who prefer a traditional pub atmosphere, and there is a dining room upstairs that is quieter and next to the kitchen. There was a full a la carte menu, with starters priced £8-£12, mains £19-£29, sides at £5 and desserts £9-£10. This evening we had a miniature tasting menu at £60.
The wine list had 79 labels and ranged in price from £28 to £500, with a median price of £57 and an average markup to retail price of 2.6 times, which is very fair by London standards. Sample references were Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache 2020 at £33 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 at £49 compared to its retail price of £22, and Francoise Lumpp Petit Marole Givry 2019 at £82 for a wine that will set you back £61 in the high street. For those with the means there was Shafer Vineyards Stags Leap Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 at £350 compared to its retail price of £367, and Eisele Vineyard Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 at £500 for a wine whose current market value is £557.
Sourdough bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and had good airy texture, with a pleasing crust and just a touch of acidity. The first course was falafel, which came with avocado and Arabic grains and a few micro-leaves as garnish, as well as a tuile. The falafel itself was excellent, a world apart from the overly dry versions that we all too often encounter, the avocado ripe and the delicate tuile providing a crisp textural contrast (15/20).
The next course was a large fillet of turbot from a huge 8 kg fish. With turbot size counts, the bigger specimens tasting a great deal better than the 1-2 kg tiddlers that often turn up in London restaurants. This was cooked precisely and was accompanied by a really lovely bouillabaisse, the fish resting on a bed of spinach and topped with a plump Brittany prawn. The spinach was excellent and so was the prawn. The flavour of the turbot was excellent but the dish was really made by the lovely sauce, a rich bouillabaisse made using the fish bones, prawn and crab shells and the less valuable but still tasty parts of the fish. I had bouillabaisse at a famous place in Marseilles just a few weeks prior to this, and the flavour of the one tonight was much better (16/20).
The meal continued with another top-notch fish dish, wild sea bass from an unusually large 6kg specimen, accompanied by artichoke and chestnut, all resting on a base of ratatouille. The fish was again very carefully cooked and had fine flavour, the base of vegetables working nicely to balance the fish, and the chestnut adding an early winter seasonal touch with its distinctive taste and texture (15/20).
In place of a cheese plate was an interesting cheese course. Wigmore sheep cheese from Berkshire was wrapped in a cylinder of filo pastry and placed on a carrot cake base, accompanied by pickled walnuts, pickled celery and pickled carrot. This was a cleverly balanced dish, the relatively mild taste of the cheese nicely enhanced by the pickled elements, whose vinegar sharpness was an excellent foil for the cheese, while the crisp pastry layer added a pleasing extra texture (16/20).
This was followed by a dessert of fig trifle topped with a biscuit ring. The seasonal figs had good flavour and the biscuit ring was very delicate, a fine complement to the richness of the trifle (15/20). Coffee was from Gentleman’s Barista and was fairly ordinary. This was accompanied by a few very enjoyable house chocolates as petit fours.
Service was good, and the bill came to £90 a head including corkage and service. This seems perfectly reasonable to me given the level of cooking on show and the undeniably excellent ingredients that we encountered. It is just a few weeks since Simon Bonwick took over the kitchen but he is already delivering some lovely, hearty dishes.