Being different, and trying to be different are two very, er, different things. The former is Bjork. The latter is every member of One Direction discovering bleach and tattoos. When a restaurant tries to be different it doesn’t bode well. It sets off a terrible process fuelled by Instagram pictures and below the line Guardian comments. It’s deranged culinary whispers. ‘So, it’s a zero-waste, foraging-first, seasonally-led, plant-focused, meat-respecting, revolutionary restaurant’. Eh? You what?
Native appears to be one of these sort of restaurants on the surface. As in, literally, it’s all of those things above. It sets off alarm bells. We can’t help but think of Zayn Malik in their Southwark kitchen, gyrating over micro herbs, bleaching his hair with whey extract. It is not a happy image. Native isn’t like that though. It’s trying to be different, and it’s good at it.
For a start, they have a zero waste approach. Zero waste is very in these days, although we know dogs that turn their noses up at an Ocado order. But at Native, no food product is sniffed at. Their pre-meal zero waste snacks - eco-canapes, if you will - are lovely. What’s in them? We couldn’t tell you. It changes depending on the menu. But they’re tasty. If that hemp blanket guy from university halls - the one who would eat Bombay mix topped tomato pureé on a Ryvita - went to Cordon Bleu, these are what he’d be making now.
In general, the menu here is a bit like names at a friend of a friend’s party. You’ll recognise two things, but have to surreptitiously get your phone out for the third. Tomatoes, good to see you. Salsa verde, long time no see. Graceburn, nice... to... meet... you? It all tastes really quite good though, and is certainly a bit different. This difference features in pretty much everything we’ve eaten at Native. From pigeon with yarrow (ya know? no, us neither) to veal with strawberry. There’s always a tasty unknown.
Native used to have a place in Covent Garden that we liked. This space is something else though. It’s bigger, brighter, with more choice bits of trademark foliage. It feels a bit more proper. Not in a fancy-Dan way, but in a ‘we made it’ way. The food suggests something a bit fancy, but the price (£42 for three courses) and atmosphere say otherwise. Don’t bother with the full tasting, unless you’re locked out of your house for three hours. This is a textbook six months into a relationship restaurant. It’s the kind of restaurant you take someone to because you want them to know that you’re a bit different.
Look, you’re not really gonna know what you’re eating here. Lots of different colours on different crackers made from different things you’ll eat later on. They all vary in being fine to pretty good.
We’re suckers for good bread. This is good bread, and even better oil.
The tasty freshness of this starter is counteracted by the day old bread. Ingenious.
We know, we know. It’s got a ‘I Googled Jackson Pollock for a GCSE art project’ look about it. But it tastes excellent.
This may read like a particularly bad bag from blue team on Ready Steady Cook, but it’s a lovely plate of food. Ainsley wouldn’t need to put any salt and pepper on this.
We were lucky enough to be here during grouse season. This, with sweetcorn two ways and black pudding, is truly delicious.
Imagine nettles and grains in your mouth. Not ideal, is it? This doesn’t taste as bad as what you’re imagining, but it’s not all that either.
A no nonsense boozy and cakey dessert masquerading as something a little bit dainty. Very nice.