Young Turks at The Ten Bells 84 Commercial Street, London E1

Can these Young Turks pull off a culinary revolution on the edge of the City?

The original Young Turks wanted to reform the calcifying Ottoman Empire and raise its standards closer to those of its Western rivals. Their name has since entered our language as a general term for thrusting and precocious types, who often have a predilection for subversive art and radical politics. In its latest invocation, it now also refers to a wonderful food collective whose latest venture is an exhilarating coup at the Ten Bells pub on the edge of the City of London. That, too, is a part of the world that has been calcifying of late; and in terms of food at least, the Young Turks have raised its standards closer to the City's West.

The chefs are James Lowe and Isaac McHale. Lowe was previously head chef at St John Bread & Wine, which is barely yards away from his new redoubt. McHale has worked at a pop-up at the Pavilion Café in east London's Victoria Park and as development chef at The Ledbury. Their credentials are excellent. A third comrade, Ben Greeno, is currently working in Sydney. The front-of-house operation is run by the convivial pair of Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith, who hail from The Clove Club, a dining crew in Dalston. "We are young and ambitious, have worked in some of the best kitchens in the world, and now we want to do things our way," their website declares. And you can tell.

The Ten Bells is (in)famous for its attendance by the victims of Jack the Ripper (the pub was, from 1976 to 1988, renamed The Jack the Ripper). Its ground floor is always packed, though rarely with City types, who thankfully prefer the bars closer to Liverpool Street station. In the far corner, italic neon letters and an arrow point to a door which says, "No Entry – Toilets are Downstairs". But behind the door is a steep, battered wooden staircase leading up to a sign saying, "Live East, Die Young", and a single room overlooking Commercial Street.

Subtle lighting, well spread-out tables, unfussy shabby chic upholstery and mildly hypnotising wall prints give a lovely harmony of old and new. The menu is £39 for three snacks and four main courses, and not far off perfect. The snacks are a warm bun with pumpkin and Ogleshield (a Jersey cow's milk cheese), a thick slice of pear with Middle White ham, and salty, crisp devilled sprats with a very smooth mayonnaise.

The main courses are grilled leek with dried scallop and seaweed; parsnip, oats and pheasant; Old Spot belly, fennel, molasses and red radish; and apples with sour cream and apple brandy. This is a procession of meticulously crafted, intensely flavourful and subtly balanced plates. The leek is tender and juicy, and the scallop an intensely seasoned dust. The oats are a soft, beige, addictive sludge, which lubricates a beautiful, slightly smoky bit of bird. The red radish – very fine and luminescent after being put through a mandoline – is fragrant and lush, and the pork falls apart into thick strips of moist meatiness. The molasses, offered in dollops around the periphery, add to the gaiety and visual splendour.

In keeping with the spirit of bringing high quality to the masses without ripping them off, the wine list operates a policy which I have campaigned for on this page before. A standard mark-up of £10 on each bottle means that for £20 you get a fine bottle of plonk, and for less than £40, a sensational one.

The rickety, chipped staircase going upwards from the dining-room leads eventually to the flat of John Twomey, the owner. But before you get there, the kitchen in which the Young Turks toil has a level to itself. It is small and narrow, and scarcely credible as the birthplace of their culinary revolution. But, like the brothers-in-arms working in it, the place oozes charm and conviction.

This restaurant is founded not just on an ethical conviction about the importance of good food, the need for it to be affordable and the aesthetic pleasures of a special meal; it is also a shrine to optimism and ambition.

Given the gloom emanating from those temples of commerce barely a mile off, I find all this rather thrilling, and can think of very few openings in London this year that deserve higher recommendation. Like their Ottoman forebears, these Young Turks have triumphed. 1

9/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Young Turks at The Ten Bells 84 Commercial Street, London E1, tel: 07530 492 986 Dinner, Tues-Sat. £120 for two including wine and service

Pub-based pleasures

Barrasford Arms

Barrasford, Hexham, Northumberland, tel: 01434 681 237 Tony Binks's plain pub in an isolated village is worth a bit of a trek – its robust gastropub cuisine is some of the best to be found in the north-east

Plough at Bolnhurst

Kimbolton Road, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire, tel: 01234 376 274 A bit of an oasis in this part of the world, this inventive gastropub has made a name for fare that's tasty, seasonal and hearty

Trouble House Inn

London Road, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, tel: 01666 502 206 Honest, unpretentious and just very good, this welcoming pub is a handy stop-off when motoring through the Cotswolds, thanks to its consistently tasty scoff

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2011' www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

    It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
    Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

    Migrants in Britain a decade on

    They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
    Why musicians play into their old age

    Why musicians play into their old age

    Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
    How can you tell a gentleman?

    How can you tell a gentleman?

    A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
    Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

    Sam Wallace

    Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
    Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

    Through the screen

    British Pathé opens its archives
    The man behind the papier mâché mask

    Frank Sidebottom

    The man behind the papier mâché mask
    Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
    Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

    Boston runs again

    Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
    40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

    40 years of fostering and holding the babies

    In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents