TT, Kingsland Road, food review: ‘The meat outdances the veg’

Sharing is the name of the game. Photograph: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

We are always told in the city history lies beneath us, that daily we are traipsing over the Victorian and Roman ruins mouldering away.

But we never think that it might be above us, and no, I am not talking about the steel rooftop pleasure gardens of the 1980’s.

I am talking about “the chimneys of Landan” (in my best Dick Van Dyke voice).

If your soul craves a wood-accented dinner in Bert’s home ground, look no further than the new terrace at TT (formally TT Liquor) on Dalston’s Kingsland Road.

First an old police station, now a big old cabin that seemingly floats in the sky.

There’s a lot of wood – a palace of pine, you could say – but also a lot of warm wicker lamps, sprouting ficuses, and glass through which you can admire the rushing Central Line and buckled roofs of 1800s Shoreditch.

The rooftop. Photograph: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

The venue’s first attempt at its own restaurant is helped along by the locally famous Kostas Vais.

I reviewed Vais’ fabulous pop-up, Esti, in the room below last year, and his culinary hand is felt here.

Promise of a street-level restaurant (opening in late April), in addition to the rooftop and a cellar bar, means you might never need to leave.

These folks, only five days into regular service, sure know their way around an open flame.

Mammals and fish are the stars of the show.

A block of charcoal-hued pink trout, hotboxed like a student hall and paired with a deceptively simple crème fraiche, allows the sea creature to do the talking (and she’s chatty).

Whipped cod crown, toasted white bread cubes like squirts of Polyfilla, makes for a grown-up and rather salty taramasalata.

Squid rolled into cigars, seared, and then cooked in its ink, has tart, hearty depth and tang. Yes, that’s right dear reader: its own ink. That would be like cooking you in your own tears. Delicious, feels immoral, but who cares? A warning though, that blue mouths like some Dune villain will follow.

There are marinated Cornish sardines, and then the almost obligatory burnt aubergine or smoked oyster mushrooms for the strictly plant-based.

‘The highlight and the biggest puzzle’: the wallet-pounding steak. Photograph: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

The eyesore on the menu (easily triple anything else in price) is the 600g ribeye. It’s quite possibly the best steak I have ever had. Moist, yet not a hint of slime, fatty but not a hint of sludgy white flesh. This rich, melting meat begs to be hauled through the vinegary chimichurri ringing the bottom of the plate and shoved into your cow hole (sounded better in my head). Share with your date, or polish off yourself in an odd show of gluttony and bravado.

Less purse-clutchingly priced are barbecued pork belly or chicken thighs, and lamb kofte with sumac onions. With the kitchen’s talent for macerating muscle, I would imagine these are divine.

The vegetables on the other hand are not so well flamed-kissed.

A grilled cauliflower is a little less than it should be, although the swamp of ricotta is a nice Mediterranean spin on the bang-bang variety.

Pumpkin seed pesto is also an elevation I will try and fail to make at home.

A side of broccoli is crisp in the wrong places and undercooked in the stems, with a perplexing dusting of almond crumbs.

However, the grilled cabbage with sunflower seed ajo blanco sounds intriguing.

The pecan pie. Photograph: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

“A pecan pie to die for,” I proclaim as my partner tucks into a mammoth and somehow smoky block of brownies, with crème fraiche, not ice cream (this time, the reinvention is less charming).

Sticky toffee pud and whipped white chocolate cheesecake with burnt pineapple are your other choices, and aren’t to be sniffed at.

The plates are compact on the whole and under £15, which makes sense for the drinks and morsels vibe.

The upper portion of the menu is all delicate things to line your stomach while you verbally dissect your ex-boyfriend, or gloat about a new job to your pals. House pickles, hummus (with tahini), salami and saucissons, smoked ox cheeks croquettes, and cheddar and haddock arancina (singularly priced, of course).

Lower down, the steak looms awkwardly out, like a nun at a brothel. Even if you half the nun (ok, hit the limit of that metaphor), it comes to £37 per person and arrives with no dipping sauce apart from the eyebrow-raising, slurry-like chimichurri.

The cocktails, on the other hand, are the best way to get on the sauce.

Lucifer Song of the Morning (winner of the best cocktail name, handed out by me, today) is a banana-based Manhattan riff.

Momo is a raspberry mule, Sasa’s rum punch tastes like a long-forgotten holiday, and Violet Tendencies (runner-up in the aforementioned category) is a blue lagoon dream.

With eight to choose from, all the old favourites are here but given a facelift by the expert mixologist and pushed out onto the terrace in gleaming new colours.

TT is a beguiling venue, and with a retractable roof, it will be swarming as the weather hots up.

Some things are charmingly robust, but currently, the meat outdances the veg, especially concerning the steak – both a highlight and the biggest puzzle.

Hunker down (or up) with your squad on the roof, nibble at diminutive dishes, and imagine Victorian chimney sweeps dancing a jig around you as you politely pick at your charred broccoli.

You stylish thing, you.