Native – sophisticated seasonal eating in Neal’s Yard

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Sustainability has long moved on from being a hippie, hemp-wearing catch phrase to something of a given, at reputable establishments at least. Everything we’re eating seems to have come from the market ‘just around the corner’ that sources every meat, vegetable and grain from somewhere no further than the Welsh countryside. Seasonality has gone chic – and while prices have risen with it, places like Neal’s Yard’s Native make a strong case for paying a couple quid more.

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The Details

Homegrown and handsomely placed on the plate, Native took the provenance trend and ran with it. Not only is the clue in the name but the owners Ivan and Imogen welcome you as if to their own home, even giving guidance on the weekly-changing menu from the chef’s table. We were fortunate enough to be seated in this cosy nook, that provides a front row seat to some of the most impressive plating-up I’ve seen with my own eyes. 

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Native – londononaplate.co.uk

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Native - londononaplate.co.uk

Native – londononaplate.co.uk

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Large copper lights assist the delicate process of sprinkling edible flowers over short towers of more edibles but also add a little theatre to the ready dishes awaiting despatch. It’s a rather beautiful conveyer belt… The upstairs section is rather small and (in warmer weather at least) spills out onto the cobbled courtyard that houses Neal’s Yard amongst others. Wood and metal are the main fabrics and the mood is homely and informal with its tactile charm. Downstairs the feel is much the same, with small booths offering a little more privacy and wild flowers (picked locally I assume) adding the finishing touches. 

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The Food 

Don’t make the rookie error of pre-selecting your dinner from the online version of the menu. The menu changes regularly and if cod wasn’t caught today there’ll be no cod on the menu tonight, so dedicate your precious lunch break to something else and wait until you get to the restaurant. 

One of Native’s mainstay signatures though, is a deconstructed take on the kebab. Consisting of wood pigeon, beetroot hummus, pickled red cabbage and Harissa, this more-isn dish resembles its high street cousin in name only. Every element has been given a serious re-think that removes it entirely from the fast food category and upgrades it to gourmet. This is a must-have. 

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Wood Pigeon Kebab, Beetroot Hummus, Pickled Cabbage, Harissa  (£8)  - Native

Wood Pigeon Kebab, Beetroot Hummus, Pickled Cabbage, Harissa (£8) – Native

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Dorset Plaice, Burnt Cucumber, Seaweed Mayo, Tempura Radish £15)

Dorset Plaice, Burnt Cucumber, Seaweed Mayo, Tempura Radish (£15) – Native

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The Charred Hispi cabbage makes a surprisingly delicious side with its smoky flavour and butter-drenched leaves. Miso butter is liberally brushed on so that it seeps between its crevices before it’s sealed by the heat of the pan. This is the kind of the foodie remix that changes all your feelings about a particular veg. Delicious. The Dorset plaice with burnt cucumber, seaweed mayo and Tempura radish is a refreshing meal for the clean-eaters who want something tasty as well as guilt-free. Another notable choice is the Yorkshire grouse, buttermilk bilberries and heritage beets.

For dessert we went for an usual dish of the little known Sea buckthorn fruit with cider brandy syllabub, apple and ginger snaps. This is a  fish mash of tastes and textures that beats a piece of cake for interest and Instagram-ability. It’s also tasty – tart and sweet and creamy. Be sure to top up with their English Garden aperitif. It’s doused with flavours of elderflower, Eau de vie and English sparkling wine and is easy drinking and quite special. 

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Sea Buckthorn & Cider Brandy Syllabub, Apple, Ginger Snap £6.50) - Native

Sea Buckthorn & Cider Brandy Syllabub, Apple, Ginger Snap (£6.50) – Native

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Native provides the kind of eating that becomes the evening’s conversation rather than just its fuel, even the soft Native bread board is fresh and remarkable. An extraordinary meal from the very beginning. 

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Native

3 Neal’s Yard,
Seven Dials,
Covent Garden,
London,
WC2H 9DP

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