Zero-waste dishes and super-refined cocktails combine to delicious effect
Claim to fame: Co-owner Ryan Chetiyawardana won a “world’s best bar” award last year for Dandelyan
Reason to go: Cub approaches sustainability with a real sense of fun, drawing creativity from its limitations
To look out for: The tiny glass of Krug with water jelly that kicks off the meal
Ryan Chetiyawardana has a thing about streamlining. At his first bar White Lyan, which opened on Hoxton Street in 2013, all drinks were pre-made and contained no perishables––meaning no fruit and no ice. You’d order a cocktail and the bartender would simply uncap a chilled bottle, pour it into a frosty glass and push it across the bar. The intention was to reduce waste (of time as well as produce) and maximize consistency, though you could say Chetiyawardana’s larger goal was to give cocktail bar conventions a vigorous shake.
Chetiyawardana went on to open Dandelyan (now Lyaness), which was voted world’s best bar in 2018. On Hoxton Street, meanwhile, he eventually grew tired of the White Lyan concept and found another deep-rooted set of conventions to disrupt––the restaurant––whittling away at unnecessary details wherever he found them.
At Cub, a small, ingeniously designed space where the bar and kitchen share a single counter, choice is reduced to an absolute minimum: there is one tasting menu combining food and cocktails, priced at £67, and unless you want to veer off into a separate drinks list, you simply sit back and accept what they send you. The staff mentions the restaurant’s philosophies at the outset but only elaborate on them if you show interest. Even the bill is streamlined, thanks to a self-service digital payment system called TableYeti.
Chetiyawardana’s partner here is Douglas McMaster of Silo in Brighton, a chef with a similar disregard for conventions and an even greater mania for sustainability. At Cub, accordingly, the tables are made from yogurt pots and the walls from recycled clay that apparently filters the air. The menu is plant-heavy and the kitchen takes an imaginative approach to sustainable sourcing: one broth was made from the invasive green crab, which fish suppliers regard as more of a pest than a product.
None of this would be of much significance if the food wasn’t delicious. Thankfully, it is, and consistently so. A dish of potatoes and whey doesn’t promise much but it sings on the plate: little confit Jersey Royals hide out under a delicate but moreish whey and fermented potato sauce, topped with crispy onions, hot red mustard frills and pine oil.
A “Banoffee pie” containing neither bananas nor toffee has been reimagined using birch sap, miso and black parsnips––the root vegetables dehydrated until they release a banana-like sweetness. This could have been a pointless exercise in flavor-matching, were the flavors here not so compelling and the textures so richly luxurious.
Other dishes from Cub’s rising star head chef Michael Thompson are more straightforward. Pretty pea-flour noodles curl up in an onion and miso broth, dotted with fresh peas and anise hyssop flowers. Sweet and tart aromas mingle beautifully in a dish of beets, blackcurrants, sage and smoked crème fraiche.
It’s no surprise, given Chetiyawardana’s pedigree, that the drinks are excellent too. What’s impressive is how well they go with the food. The beet dish is matched with an equally summery gin cocktail flavored with broad beans and celery, which tastes like a British garden party distilled into a tall glass.
Both menus sampled also featured a glass of wine and one of chilled tea, drawing to a close with a sweet lacto-strawberry concoction of Cognac and coconut. It should be noted, for those sensitive to noise in restaurants, that the music at Cub is upbeat and pretty loud, a throwback, perhaps, to the venue’s previous life as a bar.