How Levan's new wave of bistronomy is still shaking up London's restaurant scene
The Peckham restaurant is a hidden gem of fine dining in nouveau French style
On an unassuming road in Peckham, very special things are happening in the kitchen at Levan: an all-day bar and dining space inspired by the new wave of bistronomy that began in the quartiers of Paris and has spread through the neighbourhoods of Copenhagen, Barcelona and now London.
Following the success of its sister restaurant Salon, Levan’s doors opened in October 2018, serving seasonal pastries, tartines and croque monsieur during the day and, come evening, small and inventive plates to share (think torched mackerel with sea beet, sesame and plum and rainbow carrots with pickled beetroot and pistachio aioli) along with heartier dishes (enter: venison with kalibos cabbage and delica pumpkin and cod with “Levan Jaune” sauce, mussels and cavolo nero).
Anyone who pays half an eye to the London restaurant scene will know that Levan’s opening caused quite a stir that doesn’t seem to have died down. Lauded by critics and food writers across the board, the bar was set high, and so when I showed up at Levan one cold, miserable evening last week I had but one question: a year on from its opening, would it live up to its name?
When you arrive at any restaurant on a weeknight and it’s so packed you have to wait for twenty minutes for your table to be ready, you know they’re doing something right. And, I can confirm that doing something right they are. If I didn’t know this from the moment I walked in, by the time I’d taken my first bite of the Comté fries with saffron aioli, I was left in no doubt. >>
After the whole glazed aubergine with fermented chilli and almond cream, Burrata with pickled green tomato and fig leaf, and green salad topped with sinful amounts of shaved 48-month aged Gouda that followed, I was hardly able to coherently express my praise to our poor waiter, who must have thought I’d had one glass of biodynamic wine too many. In reality, I was simply in something of a stupor induced by one of the most outrageously delicious meals I’ve had in this gastronomically blessed city of ours to date.
When dessert arrived – an eye-wateringly decadent, yet somehow light as air, dark chocolate mousse – I made the mistake of confidently announcing to my fellow diner that it looked like it could comfortably feed four. A few mouthfuls and a very clean plate later, I ate my words and lamented the social unacceptability of ordering a second.
The rapidly approaching onset of winter suddenly feels far more acceptable here, with its cozy Azure furnishings, lively open-kitchen, knowledgeable and attuned staff, and a wall showcasing the restaurant’s signature collection of Old and New World low-intervention and natural wines. Combine this with the owners’ impressive commitment to sustainability (the kitchen uses a ‘closed loop’ model whereby over 90% of waste is repurposed or reused, with food herb stalks incorporated into ferments and infusions, and spent milk from making coffees turned into fresh curd cheese), and one seems to run out of reasons why not to visit this delicious, inspiring – and thriving – neighbourhood joint.