You might discount Elliot’s given its location on the fringes of the (pre-Covid) touristy Borough Market. But this seasonal and small-plates led restaurant has been one of the best in the market for a while now, not least over the last few months when it seems to have had a renaissance and a surge of attraction from London’s trendy scene and so-called “influencers”. It’s not hard to see why: this place is a class act, from the drinks and food, to the service and vibe of the space – inside or out. Even the bustle of its market location is a reassuring relief post-lockdown that “London is open”, summer is in full swing and people are out again. The beginning of the end.
Elliot’s opened in 2011, before Borough became one of the biggest tourist draws in the city. Brett Redman, the founder, imbued the place with that Australian relaxed vibe from where he’d come. At the time, a fully opening shopfront and exposed brick walls were cutting-edge, not coffee-shop essential, and the ethos of the food was equally marked by a relaxed simplicity. The very best stuff from just outside the door, cooked effortlessly by talented people and served in a place you couldn’t help but kick back and enjoy.
Elliot’s was an early pioneer of the small-plate approach, which conveniently enables you to build your meal in whatever way suits, especially now given they’ve also embraced larger plates and wood-oven sourdough pizzas specifically. This makes for a mind-blowing menu of perfectly cooked ingredients. Ideally, browse their menu over a glass of wine. Given we were here for a birthday celebration, we went for a bottle of Spanish sparkling rosé, “Cap de Pardals, Penedès” which was light, easy to drink and naturally sweet – always a crowd pleaser.
From the “snacks”, we went for the Garlic butter calzone (£6) and Stracciatella, courgette, peas, mint & lemon (£12). For my diners, the calzone was everything you’d want it to be: garlicky, fluffy, with a sourdough tang. It makes you wonder why more garlic breads are not made as calzones?!
The courgettes looked sensational: summery, light touch, green – a plate celebrating the best of seasonal produce, all sitting on a bed of creaminess and a gentle reminder of the fresh sourcing of their ingredients.
They also brought us a plate of “Ilse of Mull cheese puffs” on them – very kind and went alongside the wine very well. You could be on holiday.
From the larger plates, top of my list to try was the courgette flower and basil salsa verde wood oven sourdough pizza (£11). I couldn’t think of a more sensational combination. The salsa was somewhere between a pesto and a green herby sauce – a nice in-between without that over-powering pesto kick, more a celebration of the sweet basil in season at the moment. The courgette flowers, meanwhile, were a visual joy. This may be one of my favourite pizzas in London and eating pizza in a small plates context may be my new favourite way to enjoy them, avoiding that boredom that can set in a slice # 3.
Not on the menu but a special of the day, we also went for a Puttannesca pizza topped with olives, capers and onions. This plate showcased their wonderfully fresh and sweet tomato sauce very well. A slice of this, with its gentle garlicky kick, and a sip of wine provides everything you want from a London staycation.
From the sides, we couldn’t resist the Fried Maris Pipers & aioli (£5), which I hear was slightly burnt (perhaps intentionally for that crispy, flakey skin?) and the Wood fired peppers and butter beans (£5) which were a dream. The skin of the peppers had been peeled off for maximum sweetness and the butter beans were tender, creamy yet with a good bite. I didn’t want it to end.
Finally, my fellow diners loved the Ricotta gnocchi (£11) cooked with brown butter, pine nuts and topped with agridulce currants. Creamy, pillowy soft and with the gentle sweetness of the currants, all swimming in a buttery sauce, it was an edible (and visual) dream.
Borough itself (Stoney Street specifically) has become a draw to top eats: Stoney Street itself; Flor once home to ASAP pizza; Padella of course; Tacos El Pastor…my list could go on. And Elliot’s should be at the top of that list. As well as the food and general vibe, the staff – youthful, graceful and smiley – trotted merrily around and were never too difficult to engage. We never wanted for anything and they also brought us a slice of their burnt cheesecake, complete with three candles, for a happy birthday singalong to finish. Sitting here during a warm market day or evening is hard to beat.
Elliot’s, 12 Stoney St, London SE1 9AD