Test Driving Gizzi Erskine's The Nitery - bringing louche fun to St Martin's Lane

roomWhat used to be Asia de Cuba is revamped for The Nitery

So what do we need to know about The Nitery?

It's a three-month residency by chef and cookbook author Gizzi Erskine.

Where is it?

She's taken over the old Asia de Cuba restaurant in the St Martin's Lane Hotel, which closed a year ago after being open for 20 years (a lifetime in London restaurant terms). The space hasn't really changed all that much - the key differences are the colour (it's now a midnight blue to match the name) and the artwork, which includes pieces by, among others, comedian Noel Fielding.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

The bar at The Nitery only really opens towards the weekend - when it does, we'd highly recommend the Jasmine Margarita. Otherwise, your best bets are probably The Harp for real ale or Mr Fogg's Tavern for cocktails.

roomDevilled eggs with roast chicken crackling (£4) - we're huge fans of the devilled egg and the crackling made these a must-have, although the filling was a little sloppy.

What's on the menu?

There are French, American and English influences at work here. But it's a pretty easy menu to work through - split simply into snacks, starters, raw, mains and desserts. Here's what we had:

roomOysters with a yuzu kosho mignonette (£10 for three) - we love our oysters and this kick-ass mignonette was a great start.

roomSteak tartare with beef dripping, marmite, cured yolk and burnt brioche (£12) - a rich tartare and the mix of beef dripping and marmite works well.

roomBisque with calasparra rice and wood-fired shellfish (£38) - two meaty carabineros prawns with rice cooked in an intensely shellfish stock.

roomWild garlic Toulouse sausage with puy lentils and claret (£20) - great value for a main, but we'd have loved more of those puy lentils.

What about vegetarians?

One of the best dishes we had on the night was vegan, using an ingredient that seems all the rage in London right now.

roomWinter tomatoes with tomato water, lime leaf and Thai basil oil (£12) - if you're the kind of person who misses summer mainly because of the lack of super tasting tomatoes, then this is the dish for you. A must-have.

What about dessert?

Having seen pictures of this on Instagram, there was really only one dessert we were going to order...

roomQueen of Puddings - made with rhubarb and blood orange (£10 for two). Every single bit as good as it looks in this picture.

And to drink?

The wine list here is both interesting and - especially for a high-end hotel - pretty well priced. There's a big focus on biodynamic wines (but not exclusively) and half of the main list is focused around this, starting at £33 a bottle, £9 a glass. Gizzi herself recommended the Dirupi Veltellina Superiore which at £72 would be pushing the boat out, but certainly worth it for this floral Nebbiolo. 

Is there anything else we should try?

We liked the look of the flageolet dauphinoise with goat cutlets (£22), which we saw going past and got serious dish envy, but we we'd definitely start with this...

Overall thoughts:

As you'd expect with anything by Gizzi, there's loads to like and maybe you'd be best off coming here with a group, so you can try more of the menu. One reservation we had though is the speed of things - or rather the lack of it. There's some lag between what's happening front of house and the kitchen keeping up with demand - it's definitely something the hotel needs to work on. But if they can fix that, then this is a very welcome, albeit temporary addition to this theatreland hotel.


More about The Nitery by Gizzi Erskine

Where is it? St Martins Lane London, 45 St. Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4HX

When is it running? 13 February to 30 April 2020

Find out more: Visit their website or follow Gizzi on Instagram @gizzierskine

Book The Nitery

Hot Dinners dined as guests of The Nitery - all prices correct at time of publication.

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