Tom Cenci at Stoney Street by 26 Grains review: a real treat in the buzz of Borough Market
Out of an uncertain lockdown, a strong culinary alliance is born
As winter approaches and options for socialising seemingly evaporate overnight, a dinner in the heart of the capital is perhaps not the time to be reminded of the pandemic.
Stoney Street is warm, inviting and autumnal. Think twigs and russet leaves in jam jars, low-lighting and Otis Redding playing softly, as the kitchen hisses and sizzles, and drinks are mixed and poured at the bar. It’s minimal, effortless, fuss-free dining. I kicked off my evening with an excellent pisco sour I spied on the menu; a perfect blend of chill, tang and froth.
Small snacks, designed to be shared, take the form of cornmeal pancakes with Old Bay butter, charred corn and spring onion, griddled Navajo flatbread and curried pumpkin. Smoked salmon bellies, often discarded for being too fatty and slightly tough, are the highlight here – plump and fatty in the grape mustard mayo and served with croutons leftover from the day’s bread.
This was followed by some very moreish beef dripping spätzli (a type of German pasta) to follow; a heartier dish with celery leaf and Belper Knolle cheese, and the type which happily disappears in front of your eyes without you noticing.
Cenci’s pièce de résistance of the night was his braised beef, which came tall and proud, sitting in a duvet of creamy mac and cheese, made with Appenzeller cheese. It seemed ostensibly like an odd match but was perfect for a cosy autumnal evening. The meat effortlessly fell away from the fork, the meat juices dribbled into the cheese.
Cenci’s classic, smashed cheeseburger is perhaps best described as polite – there are surely heftier, dirtier beasts out there to be devoured, and this offering might not please everyone. But this is clearly a case of quality over quantity – a lightly toasted, springy brioche, excellent meat, teamed up with American cheese, mustard and mayo pickled cucumbers. It’s a dainty dish, but still oozy, juicy and satisfying.
To finish off I chose the banoffee cheesecake with a hob nob crunch and puppy chow cereal (a typically homemade American snack with peanut butter, melted chocolate and cereal) served with a light chocolate yoghurt mousse and drizzled with hibiscus syrup. The banoffee cheesecake was bemusing in that it had been deconstructed for no discernible reason – so the plate comprised a small pool of hob nob rubble, which was difficult to spoon onto the coconut cream, and some inelegant sliced banana. The individual components were smooth and the right amount of sweet, but I would have preferred to plunge my fork into a big fat slice of pudding.
Staff were attentive and friendly, and able to recommend some great glasses of wine. And overall this is a lovely, quiet spot in the buzz of Borough Market to while away an evening, with pleasingly simple, tempting and intelligent small plates. A real treat – not to be missed.
2-3 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AA; 26grains.com