Fine Dining In East London: We Visited The Restaurant Where Japanese Cuisine Meets The Mediterranean

I'm no stranger to Kingsland Road, having frequented the lengthy street multiple times for food and drinks, nabbing essentials from glowing shops and jumping on buses when my resilient feet give up trying to conquer its impressive stretch. This time, I was venturing across town for dinner at La Bibliothèque, a restaurant that, from the images I’d seen online, oozed modern luxury with its swanky patterned chairs and lit-up cabinets of books on the walls.

Before our meal, my pal and I had a pre-dinner cocktail at its sister spot MAP Maison two doors down. We were given the best seat in the house: a cosy, red velvet booth that curled round behind the bar, complete with a single candle that made our monthly meet-up seem a lot more saucy than usual.

La Bibliothèque London Review | DesignMyNight

On La Bibliothèque's menu are some really beautiful plates of food.

My friend ordered the signature Sunshine In A Glass (£12.50) made with Malfy lemon gin, rose wine and grapefruit syrup. It arrived smoking under a glass dome which the waitress offered to lift like a magic trick, and when she did, out wooshed a puff of smoke that sent woody notes straight up our nostrils. I went for an espresso martini (£12) that was velvety and sweet, but not too overpowering like some I've had. Usually, I can't finish them as I take one sip and I can already feel the alcohol rushing to my head, but this one was the perfect size and I liked the fact it didn't contain any syrup.

We speedily sipped our tipples before being escorted out of the 'date den' and into La Bibliothèque, where we were promptly seated and presented with a set tasting menu. Taking in my surroundings, it seemed like such a civilized spot, with mirrored walls, curtain dividers and a glowing bar at the back which, on it, sat a line of glazed milk breads that were so plump and glossy they looked like they had been rubbed in baby oil.

Its menu boasted a mix of Mediterranean and Japanese-inspired dishes, made using fresh, raw ingredients, and imaginatively conjured up by head chef James Mayle. We opted for the three-course dinner without wine or sake pairings (£45 each), but admittedly both drinks were tempting for only £25 more.

La Bibliothèque Haggerston Restaurant | DesignMyNight

A bar-illiant sight to behold: gorgeous interiors and top tipples.

To begin with, and to our delight, the glistening milk bread came alongside a trio of butters consisting of miso, sesame and a third that tasted very sweet and tangy. We pulled apart soft handfuls of dough that simply melted in the mouth and slathered on helpings of rich spread. Just as we were doing so, our starters arrived, leaving little time to savour the complex notes of our shiny friend. Twirled like a rose, was maitake, almond, celeriac and quince. This was delicious as the deep umami flavour of the tiny strips of mushroom complimented the sharp sauce, even though aesthetically it looked like someone had just gone foraging.

I picked the cod, Jerusalem artichoke and ginger for mains, whereas my dinner date decided to go for the baked potato ravioli with leek, black truffle and egg yolk. How my fish was presented to me was striking: it was wrapped in a green bow of artichoke and garnished with crispy vegetables in a small pond of citrussy dressing. My date's looked marvellously inviting, as hidden under one giant pillow of pasta topped with shavings of truffle was an entire silky yolk. It was delectable and inhaled within a flash.

La Bibliothèque Restaurant London | DesignMyNight

The restaurant prides itself on its bespoke concoctions and clever dishes. 

To finish, there were two dishes to choose from, so we went for different ones again to spice things up. I tucked into the original bean chocolate, miso and almond that was presented as a thick scoop of mousse, topped by orange-flavoured whipped cream and encased in bitter shards of cocoa, scattered with snowy-looking nuts. I’m not usually a fan of rich desserts, especially ones so devilishly decadent as this, but it was the perfect flavour balance. My friend devoured the Yorkshire forced rhubarb with matcha rice pudding and buttermilk which looked creamy, tasting very light and sweet. She was very content with her choices, as was I, and agreed the evening had been a massive success in the tasty food department. 

The DesignMyNight Digest

La Bibliothèque in London is well worth a visit, if not for its innovative cocktail menu alone, of which many certainly caught my eye. Overall, I would go back on a date if I was looking to spoil someone with moreish food - the dishes were conversation starters so there would never be a dull moment. The service was efficient and the atmosphere super laid-back, so I felt at ease as I sweated at the last morsel of mousse. 

  💰 The damage: £114.50 for two (including cocktails at MAP Maison).

  📍  The location: 325 Kingsland Road, E8 4DL.

  👌 Perfect for: Date night and foodies.

 ⭐ Need to know: It's a boutique baby so spaces are limited.


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