Sandwiched between Brixton and Dulwich, Herne Hill is replete with independent shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. It’s a well-heeled neighbourhood for sure. Whilst the average price per square metre here may be eye-watering, this affluent ‘village’ in south London has a burgeoning dining scene and is now very easy to get to on the Thameslink (about 20 minutes directly from St Pancras).
All the more reason for visiting is Llewelyn’s, which is a convenient hop, skip and forward roll from Herne Hill station. Formerly Pullen’s Dining Room and Bar, this relatively young all-day bistro has had kitchen and front of house staff plucked from the likes of Rochelle Canteen and St John and seems to be attracting a loyal customer base from near and far.
Small tables outside regard traditional boozer The Commercial opposite and the entrance to the railway station – during that unseasonably warm stretch in early Spring, these tables were at a premium whilst middle-class Herne Hillians topped up their kale smoothie intake with vitamin D. The restaurant is split in two: in the first half is an open kitchen area with caff-style banquettes that are reminiscent of Arthur’s in Dalston, whilst to the left is an airy, bright dining area, bathed in natural light – the white paint, white tables, lamps and mirrors all helping to eliminate any dreary dinginess.
Llewelyn’s is utterly lovely
On this visit service was well-oiled and personable with only one niggle: the waiter didn’t write down the order. Palate may be on a small crusade here (cf our reviews of Brat and our Kew Crawl), but it really is exasperating when a waiter thinks they’re going to impress by not writing down your order and then forget something. Just write it down!
Things can never be perfect anyway and fortunately the waiter was back in my good books after he revealed sotto voce his hopes for a second referendum. The most important thing about Llewelyn’s is the positive attitude and the no-nonsense, well-executed modern European food.
The burrata did not come with the fennel and blood orange as advertised but a last minute substitution of pepperonata instead. But who really cares about last minute changes when the menu changes every day anyway? The dish looked wet and sloppy, but the vibrant Mediterranean flavour more than made up for the visual dog’s dinner. After all, who can resist burrata? M’colleague’s starter stuck to the menu’s description though: a delightful, if standard issue chicken liver and foie gras parfait. Each came to around 8 quid.
Next up, the duck confit with lentils (£16) was restorative as a late winter/early Spring dish but again visually unappealing. The lentils were a little dry and the meat perhaps overcooked a shade. Meanwhile, m’colleague seemed to luck out with the roast cod with Jerusalem artichoke puree and a grilled calcot sauce (£17) – no drying out there, thankfully.
And for the denouement, a couple of scoops of raspberry ripple ice cream provided a cheap palate-cleansing brain freeze (3 quid per scoop), and fortunately not overly saccharine like ice creams of my youth. M’colleague caved in with a muscat caramel custard – essentially a posh crème caramel. Apart from one tart, the desserts are all of the creamy, liquidy variety, but nonetheless well-made.
The wine list is a short one-page document, including sparkling, white, rosé, red and currently on-trend orange, all with a clear nod to France, Italy and Spain but not much age. A very reasonable and light Domaine Chasselay at £35 cut across all courses well but there wasn’t a huge amount on the list to inspire.
There’s nothing earth-shatteringly original going on here, but overall Llewelyn’s is utterly lovely and with its convenient connection to central London this shouldn’t be exclusive to Herne Hill’s residents (though they are very lucky to have it).
293-295 Railton Road
by J A Smith