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After eight years in South Africa, chef Charlie Lakin, whose North Yorkshire pub Star Inn was the first to be awarded a Michelin star, has finally opened his own restaurant. Set in Hillcrest’s new boutique lifestyle centre, 7 on Builders, the small, understated eatery’s menu is built around the seasonal produce of local suppliers such as Enaleni Farm, and foraged ingredients that range from mushrooms and nasturtiums to elderflower and wild figs, all collected by Charlie. It’s refined but honest food, underpinned by French-classical training and a British country cookery sensibility. The lunch and five-course tasting menus are snapshots of what’s in season and testament to Charlie’s nose-to-tail, roots-and-shoots ethos. The bread course – served with roasted yeast butter, lamb drippings and crispy fat – sets a new bar in its class. To start, duck breast pastrami with an accompanying kohlrabi remoulade, pepino melon, fermented chilli and dill mayonnaise hits all the respective peppery, fiery, earthy marks. Moving on, you could go the whole hog with an ensemble of crispy pig’s trotter, pig’s ear and ham hock, served with a perfect creamy quail egg, and offset by a sweet-tart pineapple pickle; try a poché grilled chicken breast with stuffed chicken wing, blue oyster mushroom, garden peas and baby leeks – an expertly seasoned ode to the roast chicken lunch; or sample Charlie’s deftness with vegetarian – and foraged – fare, in dishes such as cauliflower with dune spinach and feral tomato. Rounding things out, the cheese course pays homage to local cheese supplier The Gourmet Greek, with the likes of a savoury, creamy Cheddar custard with butternut pickle – an elevation of the cheese-and-Branston-pickle model. To clinch the meal, a just-sweet-enough Meyer lemon financier with creme fraiche sherbet, fennel and foraged peppercorns draws the proceedings to a sophisticated close.
What the restaurant lacks in liquor licence, it makes up for with a line-up of Charlie’s delicious cordials, whether it’s elderflower, ginger, lemongrass or lilly pilly. To end the meal, you can order a flat white made with beans by local producer Coastal Coffee Roasters, or a superfood coffee alternative made with roasted mesquite bean powder by MannaBrew. Hopefully, a wine list will soon form part of the equation and unlock the menus’ full potential.
The service is professional and well informed, while being genuinely warm and caring, making the diner feel well cared for and comfortable throughout the dining experience.
The décor is understated, yet eclectic and tactile, with wood and button-tufted leather wall panels, lovingly worn Persian carpets and a miscellany of artworks.