What's the draw
To some restaurateurs, taking on a six-month project is a nightmare. Not so for the two involved here, though: Smokestak's David Carter has teamed up with Chris Leach to produce a no-frills restaurant experience that brings together the pair's love of high-quality cooked and cured meats with voguish, flavour-forward fresh pasta dishes made for sharing.
What to drink
The drinks list is compact, with bitter liqueurs and spritzes given almost equal billing with a short, confident wine list. We kicked off with an Inglese, made with London-based Asterley Bros' Estate and Dispense amari and topped with soda, which had a serious, kola nut and coffee finish strong enough to match its bitterness. A carafe of the cheapest wine on the list was enough to see us through mains, in this case a falanghina from Cantine Federiciane Monteleone, with good acidity and flavours of kiwi fruit and honeydew melon, and a steal at £19.
What to eat
Given that Leach has passed through the kitchens of Kitty Fisher's and the sadly departed Pitt Cue, his teaming up with the man behind Smokestak produces a surprisingly light and deft menu. There's meat here – the heroes a house-cured mortadella that sings with fennel, pepper and garlic and a gamey Tamworth pork chop, honeyed and sausagey in its taste, served alongside a zingy peach purée – but pasta is given a starring role: rigatoni has some serious umami punch thanks to nut and anchovy pesto to match its beautifully judged texture. Nduja-poached mussels are a must, with an espalette pepper-esque head thanks to the sausage and a touch of extra chilli. A doorstop of toasted house-made focaccia bathes in it, but if it's not enough to soak up all the deep red liquor, do as we did and, in the absence of a spoon on the table, slurp the rest of it with half a mussel shell. Carter and Leach aren't afraid to flex vegetarian muscles here either: a verdant summer vegetable ragu topped with pea shoots and flowers is zingy and crisp, with richness courtesy of a few chunks of hot, smoked scamorza cheese; while an almost creamed corn ravioli served with lightly pan-fried wild mushrooms is rich and sweet enough you'll be thankful there's only one dessert on the menu: a simple, crisp, lip-smacking sorbet of blackberries, rosemary and pepper.
Small plates from £5.20; wine from £5 by the glass. 10 Heddon Street, W1B 4BX; 10heddonst.co.uk