Peter Morrell finds this hidden gem a few minutes walk from the Jubilee Line in Southwark and enjoys both the a la carte and Christmas menus
After a deterioration in standards in the decade after 2000 The Laughing Gravy was bought by local resident TV critic and journalist Jon Wise. He had been devastated after he had seen his local restaurant fall into decline and, motivated by desire to bring it back to its former glory, he turned his back on his media career to become a restaurateur.
Jon employed talented Head Chef Michael Facey who has more than 20 years experience working alongside the likes of John Torode and Mark Hix. Together Jon and Michael have devised an innovatory and imaginative British menu using seasonal and local ingredients, their nearest supplier is the community garden next door.
Fast forward six years and The Laughing Gravy is now packed with both locals and a growing number of Londoners who have discovered this hidden gem. The restaurant is one of the reasons that the South Bank is now a ‘go to’ culinary destination.
I had dinner at The Laughing Gravy recent both to try the a la carte food and to sample some of the dishes from their recently announced Christmas menu.
The restaurant is a short stroll away from the Old Vic so is a good venue for both a pre-theatre meal or a full evening out. I arrived around 7:30pm and it was already very busy, in the bar area guests were enjoying their signature cocktail, Waterloo Sunset, while at the rear the comfortable dining space with exposed brickwork and scrubbed oak floor, was already buzzing.
It was evident from the start that the a la carte menu has been constructed with considerable care. The starters offered some appealing choices like pigeon and oxtail sausage roll and porter and treacle cured smoked sea trout fillet. I chose the inventive smoked scallop and West Country crayfish Scotch egg. Served with with roast salsify and Norfolk sea veg it was light and delicate with a range of harmonised flavours that made the dish quite unique.
It was time to sample a couple of starters from the Christmas menu, the first was hot smoked whisky cured Loch Duart salmon on Guinness and malted sourdough with horseradish mousse and truffle snow. This was delicious, enhanced by the pungency of the truffle snow. The second was a wild boar and pistachio roulade with damson chutney and purple potato crisps, again this was an intriguing combination of tastes and textures.
My main from the a la carte menu could have been the tempting wild mushroom and salted deer stuffed venison fillet Wellington or the equally attractive mead-glazed confit pheasant leg but I ended up choosing the pan-fried red mullet served with with squid, seaweed and mulligatawny wild rice risotto. Again this was a great, well balanced dish and I really liked the contrast of the perfumed red mullet with the ocean tastes of the seaweed.
A couple more samples, this time the Christmas mains, a delightful pot-roast pheasant with celeriac puree, roast squash and chestnuts, double Gloucester boulangère potatoes, tender stem broccoli, cranberry and mead jus, and pan-fried fish with braised leek, kale, buttered new potatoes and Brixham crab broth. Another triumphant duo from Michael’s repertoire.
My drink pairing for the evening was drawn from the impressive wine list. Both reds and whites were well represented from a mix of the old and new worlds, there is also a good range of wines by the glass and half litre carafes. I drank the the highly fashionable 2014 Picpoul de Pinet, La Cote Flamenc from the Languedoc in South-West France. This wine showed good citrus and tropical fruit aromas in the bouquet which were joined by floral notes with hints of minerality on the palate and the lively acidity gave it a clean, fresh finish.
It was time for desserts and I rather greedily chose two from the a la carte menu, the milk jam ice cream sundae sandwich with candied nuts, peanut butter cream and white chocolate popcorn mousse, and the salted caramel mousse with vanilla fudge, shortbread and chocolate rum ganache filled caramac cylinder. As you can imagine both were good but the salted caramel dessert was heavenly.
I very willingly found a bit more space for samples from the Christmas menu, the salted caramel ice cream, chocolate brownie, Amaretto sour and caramelized banana sundae with candied cashews, and the seven year aged dark rum soaked raisin and roasted pecan pie with vanilla and nutmeg infused eggnog popcorn brûlée. They were even better that they sounded, this was a veritable cornucopia of decidedly decadent puddings.
I had thoroughly enjoyed this exceptional meal, the a la carte menu, for year round dining will always please while the Christmas menu will mark your festive celebrations with style. The service is charming and attentive and the upbeat atmosphere of people enjoying both the food and the company was sustained for the entire evening.
The three course Christmas menu is £50 p.p. for three courses and wines start from the low £20s a bottle.
Finally, why the Laughing Gravy? You can take your pick, it’s the name of a Laurel and Hardy movie and was the nickname for whisky in prohibition America.
The Laughing Gravy
154 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8EN