Wonderland went for a spot of canalside dining in King’s Cross.
It seems fitting in some ways that The Lighterman in King’s Cross is opposite the (relatively) new Central Saint Martins building: they’re both results, and evidence, of the area’s recent, shiny renewal; they’re both spacious, thoughtfully designed spaces, and both are flooded with light through their vast windows. Still, light interiors won’t be an issue if you’re fortunate enough to head over when the weather is fine for a bit of al fresco, canal side dining at The Lighterman.
The menu – simple but of beautiful quality – is perfectly suited to the kind of sunshine-and-a-bucket-of-rose dining that we all crave come the warmer months. Where pretension weighs down so many contemporary restaurants that should be more focused (images of kitchens cluttered with soon-to-be-obsolete sous vide water baths spring to mind all too often in 2016), The Lighterman has wisely avoided going the way of high concept buffoonery, opting instead for the classics done well.
We kicked things off with a suitably chunky board laden with delicately cured meats, well baked sour dough and a particularly impressive potted duck: pickles are also provided, essential for slicing through the rich saltiness of the duck and ham. That ever-refreshing summer classic gazpacho was also done to a turn, with the ripe seasonal flavours and that distinctive punch of garlic present and correct.
Still, for me, it’s the wood fired grill that’s The Lighterman’s real draw (and it’s this elemental, primal kind of cooking that feels so right when dining outside, basking in the precious sunlight that London can, if you’re lucky, offer). And what better to sit atop wood fire than that most essential of foodstuffs: beef fillet? French philosopher Roland Barthes wrote famously of steak that, it’s “the heart of a cut of meat, mythologically it is meat in the pure state, and whoever eats it assimilates a taurine strength.” Well, whether bull-like strength is to be gained from The Lighterman’s Aberdeen Angus beef fillet is debatable, but what’s rather more certain is that this compact, intensely smokey piece of meat ranks among the best available in London. Follow it up with a stunning dark chocolate mousse (served with a smattering of berry) for a foolproof three courses.
Bouyed off the fillet’s almost perfect flavour and texture, my mood was only lifted further by a few rounds of The Lighterman’s essential summer cocktail: the Cucumber and Eldeflower Collins. Long, crisp, and refreshing it’s the ultimate companion to a long summer’s evening. Safe to say, I’ll be back.