Remember the Remington advert where Victor Kiam says he liked the product so much he bought the company? That’s pretty much how Jon Wise came to be running The Laughing Gravy. When the previous owners closed it at the end of 2009, Jon — a regular customer who lives just around the corner — stepped in.
It proved a shrewd move. This bijou eatery occupies the ground floor of what used to be a foundry and is furnished simply, with mellow wood floors, exposed brickwork and, to add a little bit of sophistication, an upright piano. The bar space in front of the restaurant — which can be used for diners, too — has lovely soft leather sofas, perfect for sinking into at the end of a long day.
The Laughing Gravy’s website describes the restaurant as one of London’s best-kept secrets, and it would be hard to disagree with the sentiment. However, the secret appears to be out — on a nondescript December the restaurant is full almost to capacity with SE1 locals and those from further afield keen to sample its wares. And if there's any justice, this impressive place will be fully booked well into the New Year.
The Laughing Gravy’s mission statement is to provide fresh, seasonal food in a relaxing and inviting environment, both of which are achieved with aplomb. While the menu is not extensive, the dishes are well thought out and there is something that everyone — even the most picky — will enjoy. For those on a post-Christmas diet, the superfood salad (£8.50) is recommended and will keep you feeling self-righteous, even if you do give in and add chicken (£2.70). Chef Michael Facey sources as much as possible from local suppliers, with many of the herbs and vegetables are picked from the community garden next door.
If you abandon the diet completely, an incredibly rich chicken liver pâté (£5.50) is served simply on a wooden platter with ciabatta crostini — slices of ciabatta lightly toasted with herbs and olive oil — and pea sprouts that provide a juicy freshness as well as a welcome change from the ubiquitous greenery. The crayfish and red pepper salad (£6.95) also features that ciabatta as 'shards' — offering a nice crunchy contrast, even if they are a bit of a challenge to keep on the fork. The sweet flesh of the crayfish is complemented by the roasted pepper, and it’s certainly an attractive plateful.
The rib-eye steak (£16.50) is served with shallots, flat mushrooms and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, with a tasty Madeira sauce and garlic butter. The steak is from Lincolnshire — The Laughing Gravy gives provenance of its food wherever possible. The lamb, however, originates from Wales, but it’s obviously spent some time in the Guinness marinade, as promised (£16). Yieldingly soft, it parts before the knife like the Red Sea to Moses, and is every bit as heavenly. The broad bean mint salad — with the beans painstakingly popped out of their grey-green skins and glowing like emeralds — is the perfect foil. Its accompanying rosemary garlic potatoes are crunchy on the outside and as soft and fluffy as fair-weather clouds within.
Talking of clouds, a billow of crème fraiche nestles next to a generously proportioned chocolate brownie (£5.95), which is served slightly warm and just how a brownie should be - nearly oozing soft chocolate. Cheese of the day — in this instance a subtly powerful Stilton — is from Neal’s Yard and served simply with a choice of crackers and house crab apple chutney (£7.50).
If you're looking for somewhere to grab a spot of Sunday lunch then the good old Laughing Gravy can help you there too, and it's every bit as impressive as the weekday fare. The thyme roasted corn-fed chicken breast (£14.50) is just about as succulent as you'll find, and served with exquisite roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots peas and a rich gravy. However, the real scene-stealer here is the beef (£15.45). A prime cut of Aberdeen Angus onglet is marinated in Kernel London Porter and roasted to pink perfection - it's very, very good indeed.
Like the food, The Laughing Gravy’s wines are thoughtfully selected to suit a variety of tastes and pockets. The house red and white (£14.50 and £15 respectively) are easy drinking and, like many on the list, offered as a 500ml carafe as well as by the glass or bottle.
Among the whites are a Rioja (£19.50), a Viognier from Languedoc (£22) and a Chilean Chardonnay (£22.50), while the reds include a Malbec (£17.50), a Chianto (£21) and an intriguing-sounding Azamor from Portugal (£23). A pink Moscato has gorgeous notes of strawberries and cream, which complement both the brownie and the cheese (£15). House champagne is St Evremond (£36.50), while Veuve Clicquot is served up at a reasonable £47.
The Last Word
It's already getting busy so perhaps the secret is out, but this little eatery is a delight that's well worth trying to get a table at. And if you do, it won't only be the gravy laughing at its good fortune.