You might think foregoing a Sunday roast for a light brunch would leave you feeling a little short-changed. But Kate Stronach finds plenty to appease her

The Light 233 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 Tel: 020 7247 8989

The Light 233 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 Tel: 020 7247 8989

Inhabiting an old engineering works in Shoreditch is a fresh venture baptised Light. It has modern Italian leanings, a penchant for osso bucco and, as I was informed while calling to book for Sunday lunch, a "kind of brunch thing going on". Oh dear. Brunch. A wholly unnecessary compound of the glories of English appetites - breakfast and luncheon. Readily adopted from America, the territory that gave us squeezable cheese, television religion and obesity.

The building is fabulous. Its red brick shell squats on a dingy corner and a sign declares, like a modern church, that "The Light" is to be found within. A mammoth bar sprawls around a double-height space teeming with exposed brickwork and ashtrays that could take a 40-a-day habit. There's just enough old tat (metal windows and peeling paintwork) to thwart loft-living connotations, and there was a becoming drinks list to sample - it offered my partner her first sea breeze of the summer, and a Czech beer, Budvar, for me.

About the hall (which doubled as the bar) people were slowly amassing - a fusion of tattooed locals, postcode surfers, and tourists - and ordering food (the bar serves the same menu as the restaurant). Meanwhile, in the restaurant, a place of comfy chairs and the mandatory open kitchen, the menu was delightfully clear of fry-up materials. We instantly summoned the house bonne bouche (roast garlic, parmesan oil and bread) and the wine list. The garlic was sweet, soft and forkable, the oil warm and the bread stale. The wines were a procession of New World orders and included the surprising addition of a Sicilian house choice.

We soon netted a pickled octopus (£4.50) and some grilled artichokes with beetroot vinaigrette (£4) from a succinct menu that included queen scallops and a Caesar salad. We also nominated the house white (at £3.25 for a large glass) to go with them.

The octopuses were excellent. They were small with a sweet briny perfume and a soft bite. The accompanying salad was the too usual blend of rocket leaves and shallots and I would have preferred that Jacques Cousteau's little friends had been served more naturally with seaweed or samphire. Certainly the shallots needed to be soaked to remove some of their pungency as they threatened to overpower the wee beauties.

The artichokes were ordinary. They came chargrilled, quartered and dripping in a carefully assembled dressing of baby beets and minced spinach, a mixture that ably countered any residual grassiness. Also included in this vegetarian odyssey was some delightfully crisp sprue asparagus which had, unfortunately, had its light hidden under a carelessly over-salted bushel.

The Sicilian white, an Arpeggio Bianco '98 was a find. It exuded class with a light reserved creaminess and a comforting nose that was well fitted to stand our food's extremity of flavour. It was a rare house wine indeed.

For the main course, the menu offered, among the usual suspects, a home-smoked tuna with samphire (£14), a pork fillet wrapped in sage and lemon, and a roast quail with all the trimmings though there was no sign of the osso bucco that had been flaunted as the house speciality.

We called for the tuna and a salmon en papilotte with a fennel, chilli and vermouth reduction. The tuna was, without doubt, the star of this watery show. It was rare, room temperature and calves liver-soft. The smoking had been of a suitably low tar nature and the samphire that bedded with it was both crunchy and squeaky clean. The potatoes were perfect and the sea flavours amassed to a beautifully well-balanced plate. My only criticism was that the dish had got a little too involved with its black olive dressing but that is a small murmur.

Keeping a pleasant Argentinean sauvignon busy was a very good bit of salmon. The fish was lively, soft and moist and the classical combination of vermouth and fennel was not hindered by the inclusion of red chilli strips. It was served with a simple bean stew but would have deserved a touch of seasonal greens instead.

At this point in the proceedings we were, unlike the dining hall, stuffed. We would have liked to have sampled the orange cake with clotted cream on the pudding menu but that would have meant an undignified trip to the ladies so we ordered the bill instead, which turned out to be a plausible £55. I liked this new slant on brunch very much. As the big guy says, "Let there be light" indeed.

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