Serving up French cuisine with modern flair, Kellie Erm dines the night away at L’Ami Malo, Spitalfields
French food is more often portrayed by white linen table cloths, candlelit dinners with classic French dishes such as frog legs, soufflés and kilos of butter.
However, as with any country, regional food offers guests a different look, and to explore the flavours that are more readily available. This is the thought that came upon owners Emilien Lesourd and Vincent Couvreur after a trip to the coast of Brittany, prompting them to open L’Ami Malo.
The restaurant is located in a small street behind the Spitalfields market. It almost feels like you’ve walked into an old French street, with dimly lit neighbours and the soft rain trickling down.
From the outside, the restaurant is warm and inviting, with welcoming staff. On the top floor there are a few small tables squeezed close together, creating a cosy “get to know your neighbour” atmosphere, while downstairs is slightly larger, with Japanese-styled screens and some greenery.
Clear to the owners, they couldn’t just open up any old galette restaurant. The galette, a savoury version of the more well-known cousin, the Crêpes, needs to be the stand out point – with touches that are more familiar to the Bretons, but of course with a London twist.
Starters include choices of small plates, such as the asparagus and cod brandade, a whipped cod spread with a crispy galette to accompany. The dish was beautifully presented however was very mild in flavour, served with a vinaigrette that was overpowering.
My guest and I try the intriguing maki rolls, ordering the roll with cured ham, comte cheese and whole grain mustard. The concept is fun and new; however they were very much on the dry side.
The mains on the other hand were delicious. The Confit Duck Leg shows the masterpieces of the French kitchen – the meat the falls apart almost only by looking at it, but somehow still managing to keep that skin crispy – creating a perfect balance of textures. The dish is served with classics such as red cabbage and a red wine jus (dairy free version available).
We couldn’t visit L’ Ami Malo without trying the galette, and the staff let us know that the Morteau sausage galette was a sure winner. A hearty combination of smoked sausage, leek fondue, sliced baby potatoes and whole grain mustard, all on a bed of paper thin galette is an excellent and rustic dish, especially with London approaching autumn.
We decide to give the maki rolls another try, and ordered the Eton Mess dessert roll. Sadly this one was even dryer, with coagulated whipped cream inside as it had been in the fridge far too long, as well as has no real resemblance to an Eton mess, other than the strawberry.
To finish, we order the Pièce de résistance, the Crêpes Suzette… only to be shown a cold plate of Crêpes with some orange slices. I ask if the dish has already been flambéed in the kitchen, as it might have to do with health and safety but the girl never got back to us.
After trying it, it was clear it hadn’t been flambéed, which is the key aspect of the crepe suzette, as this caramelizes the sugar and created a whole different dimension in the dish.
The Wordrobe Verdict
It’s a great little place to visit if you’re strolling around Liverpool St., and you’re not in the mood for the “food court” feeling that is the Old Spitalfields market. I would suggest this place for a date as it is dark and cosy, and with the shift in weather the heartier dishes are always a great option.
I would however steer clear of the maki rolls, as it was clear that the rolls had been made several hours before and left in the refrigerator, and served fridge- cold, giving it that distinctive dryness, and leave that to those who invented the maki roll– the Japanese.
Words by Kellie Erm
Make it happen
Where: 14 Artillery Passage, London E1 7LJ
Bookings: Phone 020 7247 8595 to make a reservation