Elliot's, 12 Stoney St, London SE1 9AD
Trading Blows: Elliot's in Borough Market
Over its millennia of trading, there’s no doubt that Borough Market has seen its fair share of people that feel as if they’re getting fleeced. The notion of history repeating itself is seldom a pleasant one. Sometimes it's a mixed bag.
Starting with a ‘Spicy Margarita’ that is spiceless tenner into the ether, I hope against hope that the kitchen doesn’t let me down as we complete our order, having to wrangle our waitress back who just sort of walked off as we asked questions. I know we have rough days to which a punter is rarely the antidote, but we just wanted to know if we were ordering enough as a group of four.
Have mercy, o sassy one.
The Isle of Mull cheese puffs come thunderously recommended by the Editor- a repeat purchase for her across the two Elliot’s sites, there’s no discussion- they’re happening- and it’s a good thing, too. Deep-fried quenelles contain a luscious bechamel that has me frantically ransacking my memory banks before our friend nails it: ‘tastes like Mini Chedd’s!’. My love for elevated childhood favourites is no secret and this is a dish that, with hindsight, I could’ve spent the bill total on multiple plates with no remorse.
The Cantabrian anchovies with curls of cold butter on sourdough are plated like how I imagine the bourgeoise thinks rationing might look, served in a very 'that's your lot' style. But I will say the gentle sweetness of the onion beneath was a genuinely lovely touch.
Next is the thankfully plentiful garlic butter calzone and it's clear that Elliot's definitely knows how to make a great dough; mottled with leoparding and crisp. Slicing through reveals a steaming, cavernous interior that busts a dam of humming garlic butter making you inhale the vapour as if it were an alternative to Vix.
The tonnato Stan that I’ve become, (see: 'Stannato’ - paging Ben de Silva) it’s now something that I order out of reflex, determined to see how one differs from the next. Rather than a lacing of sauce on top, it’s pooled beneath a vibrant scarlet carpaccio of beef, vignetted with a brief sear. Dotted with fried cappers and a quick grate of lemon zest, it’s delicate and dainty in stark contrast to the £17 cosh that it twats you with.
However, when all combined in a bite, it tastes uncannily like smoked salmon which is such a pleasing bolt from the blue that has me talking myself into excusing the price, for no other reason than to avoid sullying the mood with a face like a smacked arse.
Since Crisp Pizza came into my life, I’ve had eyes for no other. Never a huge of Neapolitan style due to the chin slapping factor, it takes a good topping to bring me around, and I found it in Elliot’s ragù. Although feeling out-performed by the calzone in terms of dough complexion, it's deeply flavoursome with some fair chunks of beef still barely holding it together. It’s a comforting rib-sticker that you’d happily eat whilst watching it get dark at 4pm just before flipping on your SAD light, but this modest 10" pizza is a hubristic £15, which is something no amount of light can remedy.
At least this half a wild duck with greengage mostarda & spiced sauce will see things right. Lol just kidding, this was the spenny cherry on a turbulent experience. I could’ve sworn that wings define much of if not all the bird family; whether they can use them is different- of course (I see you, pedants). I definitely could’ve used a wing on this plate to go with the well-rendered and pleasingly pink edge-to-edge breast and crisp confit leg. That said, £20 is a bit of an ask.
What’s almost worse is the mostarda- completely flavourless, save for the saccharine cloy of simple syrup in which greengages are suspended but entirely silent. And again, a total absence of heat, which seems a tidy way to bookend my experience. The sauce is faintly spiced but regardless, it’s a well-made jus, shining with clarity and lapping around the plate which, in fairness, is where the wing might’ve ended up. Just don't call it a 'half-duck' when it's not.
Turning down dessert and asking for the bill, our waitress returns with some pep in her step, almost as if she can't wait to see the back of us. With the card reader in one hand and wiping her nose on the other, her fingers slink behind the receipt in eagerness to tear it off and issue it to us. The hollow question of ‘did you enjoy your meal?’ causes the inside of my brain to rattle with the reverb of the resounding internal scream of 'as if you give a toss’ that I’m holding in. But, in a spasm of classic Englishness, this grinds past my teeth and out into the world as a cheerful ‘yes, thank you’ greased with cowardice as I am, as that feeling of being hoodwinked seeps its way in.
Ah, ‘Buyer’s Remorse’- hello, old friend.