William Sitwell reviews Flor, London: ‘The cod brandade was the best, most delicious, naughtiest sort of fish pie’

 Flor, London
Our critic revels in a new culinary discovery tucked away in Borough Market  Credit: PER-ANDERS JORGENSEN 

Let me give you some terms of reference so that when you visit Flor you can impress your friends with a few nuggets of information. The site is by Borough Market, where food has been traded since at least the 13th century, although the current structure was built in the middle of the 19th century.

Flor is a new sister establishment from the people who opened a place called Lyle’s in Shoreditch (that part of London where you need a beard to enter). There they bring an unabashed chefiness to an obsession with British ingredients and seasonality – described once as ‘micro-seasonality’.

So you might see mulberries adorning a plate of duck breast cooked in a low-temperature oven fuelled by the embers of beechwood. ‘Flor’ is the technical term for the yeast that develops on wine and sherry during fermentation and gives you a clue that these guys like ‘natural’ wines.

This is a fuzzy term but basically means that there is as little intervention as possible during the winemaking process – which is why many such wines are cloudy, they smell like cider, and if they were humans they would have beards. Flor is inspired by the snack-bar buvettes of Paris and pintxos of San Sebastián. At this point you can have a competition to see who can pronounce pintxos.

Having impressed with these opening gambits, you can get stuck into eating your way through the menu. And I urge you to go with 
a gang so you can try as many of 
the sharing plates as possible, although as they average out at some £10 each, don’t blame me if the bill is a shocker.

With critical teenage assistance in tow, we sat at the bar, though there is seating up the spiral staircase (the place is a dramatic mix of bare brick, black metal and wood). We went for a generous cluster of ideas and pretty soon out came a great collection of eclectic and beautifully mastered dishes.

We watched as a chef sliced up raw vegetables, which would have been my idea of a teenage nightmare, but in fact shows how far British food has travelled in recent decades. It was a painterly display of different radishes including purple daikon, tenerumi (the tender shoots of a squash), crystal lemon cucumber and snake squash. Some of the leaves were deep-fried in batter. We dipped them in a sesame sauce and wondered at the genius of simplicity.

"The brown butter cake was possibly one of the best cakes I have ever eaten"  Credit: PER-ANDERS JORGENSEN 

There was toast topped with anchovy in lard and a flutter of marjoram. The dish is a glorious engine room of the food world, an ancient combination of some of the most basic things you can extract from the sea, land and soil. The crunch of toast, the salivating texture and saltiness of anchovy enveloped with soft, rich fat. You eat it and immediately reach for that wine, or sherry. Delicious.

We also had prawns, the bodies raw and exotic, topped with yuzu, the heads grilled and made for sucking.

A cod brandade was presented as 
a slim dish with its grilled top and was, we reckoned, the best, the most delicious, the naughtiest and most wonderful sort of fish pie ever conceived. The top was crisp, the filling delicate and creamy and there were swirls of soft red and yellow peppers to add the tiniest hint of spice.

We finished with three ‘brown butter cakes’. Mine was possibly one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. If a starving boy had stolen such a cake and run off to a quiet location to guzzle it, it couldn’t have tasted better.

Flor is a beautiful addition to Borough Market. It’s imaginative, professional, a place of glorious discovery where the fundamental asks of a restaurant – to feed the hungry and to tantalise the taste buds with happy service – are delivered masterfully.