Before last weekend, I’d never eaten in Bright, although even if you held a gun to my head I would have sworn I had. You see, I’ve eaten in Ellory, which was in that space until February, when it snuck off down the road to reopen as Leroy (keeping up?).
It’s a mistake I was happy to correct, because Bright is a cracking little restaurant. In my defence, it looks almost identical to Ellory, with its air of industrial chic – all polished concrete floors and exposed ventilation ducts – although the harsh edge is taken off by a lick of green paint and some nice Scandi-style furniture. And the food, somehow, is even better.
The London Fields venue is the latest from the blokes behind Clapton wine bar P Franco and Broadway Market’s Noble Fine Liquor, with William Gleave and Peppe Belvedere on food duties and Phil Bracey and Liam Kelleher running things.
It’s the kind of restaurant that Food People speak of in hushed tones, a place that gets thoroughly gushed over on specialist blogs and that appears on the Instagram feeds of People Who Know What They Are Talking About (see also: Cornerstone in nearby Hackney Wick, which I was planning to review for this column but was unable to get a table at, even when I used the “but don’t you know who I am?” card).
So what’s Bright all about? The food is tricky to pin down – true to its chefs’ nationalities, there’s an element of Antipodean-meets-Italian, but there’s also a Japanese and vague “modern European” contingent. It’s best shared with a group, because you’ll be devastated if you don’t get to try everything.
I started with some dainty little chicken katsu sandro – katsu sarnies – which I thought looked a bit prissy until I tasted them, and my, oh, my are they good, like the afternoon tea from your wildest dreams, fluffy white bread giving way to decadent, crispy chicken thigh. Grilled sweetcorn is elevated to transcendental levels by citrus kosho butter (a startling combination of yuzu, chillies, salt and fresh butter).
Glazed ham is a wallet-smashing £10, but you get a frankly absurd amount and it’s very good. The scarlet prawns, at £15 for five, are harder to justify given the size of the little chaps, but you can’t fault the produce, nor the preparation, and for that brief moment when you have that sliver of delicate, barely-cooked flesh on your tongue, you can convince yourself it was money well spent.
Arroz negro comes with squid so fresh I’d swear it had just been scooped from the sea and wafted in the general direction of a grill before being neatly sliced and popped on a bed of rice. Joyous. But not as joyous as the mackerel with yoghurt and capers, a variation of a dish I must have eaten a million times over the last few months but which I can’t remember tasting quite this good.
Phew, that’s a lot of praise. The only off note was the whole bream, which was fine in and of itself, but was secreting a sheet of bloodied kitchen towel tucked beside its skeleton. With everything else being so well prepared, we started to doubt ourselves – was it… was it supposed to be there? But then our horrified server caught sight of it and whisked it back to the kitchen, returning to explain that it’s there to soak up the juices after the fish is gutted and is most certainly not supposed to be delivered to the table. Then she took the price of our desserts off the bill, which was nice.
Those desserts included some perfectly nice sheets of chocolate with caraway seeds, and figs with honey and milk ice cream in a fig and citrus jus.
This being the third outpost of a company that started life as a wine bar “with food”, the drinks menu is a treasure trove well worth exploring, especially if you have a few hours to kill on a Sunday afternoon. Between four of us we cracked through a good portion of the by-the-glass wine list – the Jean Maupertuis Neyrou-Plage is off-the-wall good – and tried everything from a thick, tart sake to an aromatic kombucha tea spirit made by one of the Noma alumni.
We swayed home extremely happy. Bright really is very good, although I’d recommend you pass on the bloodied fish-guts napkin.