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


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'

Suggested Topics
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home