Many chefs talk about wanting to serve the food that they themselves like to eat, but it’s just as important for a venue to be the kind of place that the owner feels comfortable in. So when chef Bjorn van der Horst and his wife Justine decided to open their own restaurant, they not only put together a menu that they genuinely enjoy but the venue too was designed to reflect their personality and lifestyle.
The inspiration behind the concept was born of the couple’s love of hosting dinner parties at home, where they found that the kitchen was often the centre of party. It’s this easygoing and welcoming ambience that the couple are aiming to recreate at Eastside Inn. For that reason, a large open kitchen and counter shared by two restaurants – a bistro and fine-dining restaurant – is at the heart of Eastside Inn. The venue also has an intimate private dining room, a jazz lounge and late license to make guests feel as homely as possible.
The food too provides a snapshot off Bjorn’s life. Having learned his craft in the kitchens of some of the world’s most famous chefs including Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse, the plush section of the restaurant provides contemporary and creative French dishes, whilst the Bistro – where we dined – provides a rustic menu influenced by Bjorn’s upbringing in France.
French onion soup was full of chunky croutons, sweet onions and rich gruyere to create the most perfectly cosseting dish for a cold November night. Conversely, Baby squid was a far more delicate affair, with touches of paprika & lime vinaigrette. Mains again took me to rural France, with an outstanding Cassoulet, full of tender pork, flavoursome sausage and haricot beans; it’s only available on Tuesdays so make sure this is when you visit. Roast duck with peppercorn sauce was predictably less inspiring, but well cooked and plenty tasty. They also passed the ‘chip test’ with flying colours, with their unusual method of cooking French fries in beef dripping & sumac plants. Desserts too were excellent, with an intensely rich Araguani chocolate mousse-like ganache and a subtle but no less impressive Apple tart; apparently it had been basted with butter every 10 minutes whilst being baked for 3 hours, which probably explains why the sharp apple flavours melted away into the thin yet rich pastry.
Cuisine type: French
Dinner for two (excluding drinks): £60
Eastside Inn Bistro
40 St John Street
London, EC1M 4AY
Tel: 020 7490 9240