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Restaurant Review: Lisas Kitchen and Bar, London

Photo: emiliano capozoli biancarelli
Lisas Kitchen and Bar
305 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TD
Cuisine: Scandinavian
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Jamie Tabberer: The menu that chef Calle came up with is very Scandinavian – a lot of fish; the herring, the cured salmon, it’s completely Swedish.

Upon arriving at Lisa’s on Portobello Road, your attention is immediately drawn to the huge hunk of wood fixed to the front door in lieu of a door handle; a savagely beautiful piece of sculpture that contributes in its way to this inviting but informal candlelit restaurant’s rustic, storybook charm.
Inside, exposed wooden floors are slathered in white paint creating a clean, fresh aesthetic, while the delightful, friendly Scandi staff, all sparkling eyes and huge smiles, radiate an infectious enthusiasm for the menu.
Explaining the brand’s unfussy mission statement, head chef Calle told us: “We wanted to keep things very simple, but everything made from scratch. We even make our own fish stock! The menu we came up with is very Scandinavian – a lot of fish; the herring, the cured salmon, it’s completely Swedish. We have a few things on the menu that aren’t completely traditional, like the pasta [dishes] – but they have Swedish cheeses.”
The food was indeed predominantly traditional, as well as delightful: the
gorgeous, fresh tapas particularly are carefully assembled and sculpted to look like colourful works of art you feel guilty eating. These include meaty chunks of herring marinated in a zingy horseradish sauce served with exquisite, pungent Vasterbotten cheese and light crisp-bread; the Nordic Atlantic shrimps tapas, paired with mayo and red onion and decorated in herbs and chives, are similarly dainty, albeit presented on a more robust, hearty rye bread.
Completing the tapas triptych were generous portions of intense home-cured salmon served with an acerbic kale and squid mayo combo – a gloriously healthy and deceptively filling start.
The next dish was probably the standout: perfectly scorched, sizzling scallops that melted in the mouth, lightly coated in a devilishly light brown butter and creamy Gravlax (because you can never have enough salmon), served with a small helping of sprightly green peas. Technically still in cold starter territory, we soldiered valiantly on into mains: the savoury of the meatballs was complemented by sharp, sweet-sour loganberries, while the already strong taste of the Isterband sausage was overloaded with extra flavours (spring onion, radish and mustard); the accompanying potato salad was too much for us.
For drinks we were served Danish 09 cocktails: a spicy, earthy clear spirit by the name of Aalborg Taffel Aquavit mixed with lemon, celery and dill; yet more strong, earthy flavours and not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, my guest and I were served Kladdkaka to share for dessert – a slice of traditional Swedish chocolate cake, that’s lighter and airier than any we’ve tried.
Underwhelming, but in the right way – it is to a ganache recipe what sorbet is to ice cream – it was the perfect note to end on, following a meal of twists, turns and naturalistic surprises – not least the visually curious Romanesco cauliflower that accompanied the meatballs.
On the restaurant’s offerings in the foreseeable future, Calle added: “We try
to change at least one dish every month. For the summer we are going to start barbecues out the front on Saturdays, on market days, serving burgers, lobsters and fish!”
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7 May 2014
By: Jamie Tabberer
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