What's the draw?
Small plates and natural wine? In East London? Surely not! Although it seems that just about every man and his dog have pivoted to plating on overcrowded crockery and serving lip-ripping glasses of skin-contact wine, it's hard to deny that a lot of restaurants in London are doing a damn good job at it. Crispin is one of them: blessed with glass walls and an abundance of natural light, the day and night café and restaurant occupies a bright and bijou space on White's Row. Chefs Fabien Spagnolo and Max Truel man the open kitchen and serve an ever-changing menu of seasonal fare in which many of the dishes are given a French lilt. Pair those plates of fresh seafood and charcuterie with a rotating wine list of low-intervention wines and you've got myriad reasons for a return visit.
What to drink?
Sure, there are tasty aperitifs and beers here, but there's also wine, and you should really be drinking the wine. We started off with a crisp and coral glass of Mas de Daumas rosé: very French (from the Languedoc region, to be precise) and very, very chic. What followed after that was a cavalcade of wines personally selected by the restaurant's knowledgeable waiting staff. A glass of Grillo Grillo from low-intervention, organic Sicilian wine producer Antonino Caravaglio was the wine equivalent of crunching into a pear straight from the fridge – a white that had just the right amount of acid to cut through the heady funk of mackerel tartare – while dolcetta grapes gave a dark-fruit edge to Cascina Bocaccio's 2017 Celso Zero, the juicy tannins getting along famously with the staggered structure of the meal. To finish, we wallowed like buffalo in a glass of Georga's Family Natural Sweet: a no-sulphite dessert wine made from biodynamically grown savatiano grapes, with a treacly mouthfeel and festive profile of dates and walnuts.
What to eat?
It's hard to go wrong with the 'one of everything' approach. A baseball of burrata arrived first and we wasted no time diving in with a generous hunk of Dusty Knuckle sourdough. The dairy globe had just the right amount of give, never surrendering its structural integrity or pooling unhappily in the bottom of its porcelain home. The grilled gem lettuce that followed might just have been our pick of the litter: well-charred leaves with a puffed grain crown that'll make you never want to eat an over-dressed wedge of iceberg ever again. Gazpacho – adorned with a huddle of red peppers and toasted pine nuts – benefited greatly from the saline presence of feta cheese and a few aesthetic AF flowers. Not everything, however, was for everyone: while I enjoyed the mackerel tartare in tomato water, and found its horseradish punch to be a right hook in all the right places, my dining partner was less convinced. Brill with sauce américaine and seaweed, on the other hand, was brilliant – the terracotta cognac-based reduction lifted the flavour of the delicate fish à la Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing – while a plate of crispy pork belly was made all the more alluring by being dressed up with a crackling crust and a mustard-forward ravigote sauce that echoed the sinus-clearing high of a salt beef bagel. Dessert was a palate cleanser in the form of grapefruit, cucumber granita and yoghurt ice cream. Bite-sized chunks of grapefruit did their citrus thing while the granita (a shaved ice that tasted as if it'd been proper old school haunted by the ghost of a cucumber) and yoghurt ice cream provided a cooling contrast. Construct yourself the perfect bite and you'll be very content with your life choices.
Wine by the glass from £6, small plates from £4. Pavilion on The Corner, White's Row, E1 7NF; crispinlondon.com