Chefs Sam Lazarus and Alberto Cavaliere have taken the helm at The Cookhouse, opening for lunch and dinner every Friday and Saturday with a menu that showcases top quality produce. Luke Mackay drops in to see what it’s all about
Images: Georgie Hodgson
I’ve deleted this paragraph three times now for I am finding myself insufferably patronising. You try writing about a meal that you ate, cooked by an 18-year-old while sitting next to his mum and his aunties (paying guests on the day I attended) without sounding patronising; it’s nigh-on impossible, so I am going to pay Sam Lazarus and his partner Alberto Cavaliere the compliment of entirely ignoring their youth and critiquing what I ate based entirely on the experience.
They have settled into a three-month residency at Borough Market’s Cookhouse and are bringing skills honed at the sharp end of London cooking, under the gimlet eye of Marcus Wareing at his eponymous restaurant in Knightsbridge. They have big plans, huge ambition and are entirely charming to boot.
Can they cook? Of course they can—you don’t do two years at one of the world’s finest restaurants without knowing your way round a set of pans. Are they restaurateurs? No. Not quite yet…
I sit at an unadorned table (dress the room, lads—this stuff matters too) and watch as they sear lamb, and talk to them about their suppliers and their plans. It’s exciting stuff: everything comes from the Market and they treat it sensitively and with precision. Alberto serves the starter and explains the inspiration behind it.
Forest floor of fungus
A veritable forest floor of fungus has a puree that is deep and earthy; ceps, meaty and caramelised, with the complexity of the finest steak. Wild garlic gives a seasonal pungency and freshness that works beautifully. I can take or leave the caramelised baby gem—can we all agree that it’s time to stop cooking lettuce now?
The main course is a rack of lamb with goat’s curd and Roscoff onions and what’s served is faultless—lamb cutlets, pink within, all crisp fat without and bone-gnawingly good (I apologised to Sam’s mum for my table manners). The goat’s curd was fine—herby and fresh and just sour enough to cut through the lamb and a few rings of charred onion added sweetness and texture. A Caribbean-inspired dessert involving Malibu gel and compressed pineapple was refreshing and interesting and nicely balanced—sweet without being cloying.
The meal felt like what it was; half of the evening tasting menu, rather than a coherent three-course lunch (they serve a six-course tasting menu in the evening). I would suggest tweaking slightly—adding some veg to the main, increasing the size of the dessert, but I’m greedy and old fashioned. You might not be and think it perfect.
I’m going to be shamelessly patronising now because if these two are anything to go by, not just food but society in general is in good hands. When I was 18 I was entirely feckless. Sam has been commuting from the end of the Jubilee line and working long shifts which often stretch into the early hours, for two years. If I were going to invest, I’d invest in him and Alberto: they’re talented grafters with a plan.