What’s the draw?
You'd be forgiven for walking past Lupins: it's positioned unassumingly under a railway arch in Southwark in a small townhouse which, despite the light, bright, airy decor and open plan kitchen, sits quietly in juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle of the street food vendors of Flat Iron Square and Borough Market. Do book, or you’ll be faced with a wait, but if you forget, it's worth relaxing with a drink at the bar. The restaurant could just as easily be situated beachside in California during high summer as South London. Think pastel pink and chalky sage velvet cushions, bare exposed brick walls and hexagonal tiling, sophisticated yet cosy and instantly make you feel at home.
What to drink?
Owners Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke, who first crossed paths working together at Chelsea's Medlar, offer a short but sweet menu of all-natural, organic, biodynamic wines mainly provided by Suffolk's Smashing Wines. Why is this important, you ask? Well, the independent wine store, run by husband-and-wife duo Clement and Rebecca, has been sourcing and serving wines from small, environmentally-forward thinking producers since 2014. And boy, can you can tell: we enjoyed a 2014 glass of Chateau Carbon D’Artigues, made in Graves in Bordeaux, which is rich, earthy and fruity all at the same time, just what you want to kick your meal off. The saccharine-sweet Hexamer Riesling 2016 we swilled down with dessert was dark, juicy and tangy, and the accompaniment to frangipane tart you never knew you needed.
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What to eat?
Like so many before, Lupins promised to serve 'British produce with a twist'. The twist – or twists – here included Mediterranean feta and Italian polenta; French pistou and Indian cassava chips; Mexican chipotle and Spanish charcuterie, all paired with an ever-changing line up of seasonal British produce. From this, the simplest of concepts become spectacular; the white bean crostini, for example, demonstrates kitchen wizardry at its finest, drenched in salty anchovies and biting lemon salsa, bringing nostalgic flashbacks of balmy summer evenings spent in the garden, white wine in hand, watching the sun set. Aubergine croquettes, deep-fried and decadent, are a crunchy delight served with creamy whipped feta, and the Little Bread Pedlar sourdough, cut thick as a doorstop and served warm from the oven with whipped brown butter, shouldn't go unmentioned, partly thanks to the butter, a salty, messy, indulgent affair that makes you forget calories exist and lick it from the serving bowl.
For mains, charred seasonal greens are slathered in warming fennel, tangy pistou and pickled cucumber, and radish cuts through cured fresh-as-anything slivers of trout swimming in a puddle of smooth buttermilk. The Cornish crab thermidor steals the show – layered in Neal's Yard cheese and cream, so rich you all but hold your hands up in defeat when asked what you'd like for pudding. But thank goodness you didn't, as the smell of the cherry and pumpkin seed frangipane tart hits you as it's brought up the stairs. It's fresh from the oven, dripping in clotted cream and utterly moreish – even more impressive when you consider all of Lupin's dishes are prepped and cooked in a space no bigger than Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs.
Prices from £13 per person for two courses, drinks from £4.50. 66 Union Street, SE1 1TD; lupinslondon.com