Cub is part of a new wave of ethically-minded, conceptual dining spaces. And it doesn’t mind if its enthusiasm for conscientious cooking verges on evangelical. For context: here, food and drink are presented as equals in a mission to 'provide a modern interpretation of a restaurant'. So that’s five alcoholic drinks with five courses of food. Neither leads the charge so much as hold your hand through a kind of sensory awakening. Ingredients are shared efficiently, seamlessly between the two.
The restaurant is the product of the leftfield partnership between Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr. Lyan, aka bartender behind the World’s Best Bar- Dandelyan at London’s Mondrian Hotel) and Douglas McMaster (behind the UK’s first zero waste restaurant, Silo in Brighton). Chetiyawardana has returned to the site of his original and celebrated bar, White Lyan to create ‘a luxury sustainable drinks-led dining experience’. The duo calls on Dr Arielle Johnson, former flavour scientist at Noma to bring scientific rigour. A meal here might be zany, but it’s underpinned with serious craft and respect for the provenance of ingredients.
Cub is a matchbox space dressed up as a conceptual diner with a dainty, open bar-kitchen and glorious egg-yolk yellow banquettes. This could be Abbot Kinney in LA: instead it’s a design-lovers oasis in a rough and tumble pocket of Hoxton Market. The contrast only adds to the charm. The restaurant’s design artfully flexes its sustainability credentials down to the smallest detail. Interior walls are constructed from a breathable clay that naturally filters the air, while the bar surface and table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots. A sense of experimentation and playfulness on the menu and in the fabric of the space prevents the place from screaming ‘ARTISTS AT WORK’.
Masterful detailing in miniature moments is the name of the game here
It seems Cub lives for subtraction: no hierarchy exists between bartender and chef, drinks and food. Between one to two chefs work the kitchen on rotation, preparing intricate plates of discovery. This commitment to experimentation takes time and the menu is so prep-intensive that Cub opens Thursdays – Saturdays only.
Here the heroes are the forgotten, unloved and often underappreciated ingredients overlooked in different hands. Everything offered to us is always interesting, sometimes beguiling. We start with a doll’s coupe of Krug: nimble with a thimble of champagne and a fragrant blob of herb-infused jelly to eat at the end. Chewing champagne is a new one for us and happy to report, a delight. A bowl of beetroot, fir oil and soured apple juice offers up an unexpectedly nostalgic flavour while bearing no resemblance to its composite elements. Instead the beet flesh, cooked long and slow over 12 hours takes on the viscous texture of molasses.
Sheep’s whey is a new discovery (the liquid usually discarded in the production of milk and cheese) and emerges as a savoury, soupy nut butter. My God. If Cub didn’t change its menu seasonally, we would return every week for that one ingredient alone. Masterful detailing in miniature moments is the name of the game here. A few amused bites and drinks and you’re done.
Those with a less hearty constitution for unbridled enthusiasm might find Cub’s energy a bit Portlandia for their tastes: ‘rumour has it Ivy House Farm Dairy cows have their own masseuse’, but we enjoyed the joyful stories that accompany each dish. At Cub, you encounter more than cerebral approaches to flavour combinations. Ingredients are the gateway to a conversation on sustainability, dispelling some of the myths that sustainability means sacrifice. And Cub’s ethics on the subject are some of the most finely tuned in London. Cub’s craftsmanship – woven through the design, presentation, food and service – is hard not to fall for. OK, so perhaps a small sacrifice for us is the absence of a full stomach. No matter, enjoy the pleasure and storytelling at Cub and grab a (sheep’s whey) sandwich on the way home.
Book a table at Cub.
The Cub Signature
Location: Hoxton Market, London
Set menu of 5 plates of food and 5 accompanying drinks, £55.