It's easy to walk past Maltby Street without a second glance, just a non-descript street alongside the railway arches a stone's throw from Tower Bridge. But if you happen to be there on a Saturday from 9am til 2pm, it comes alive as the elusive Maltby Street Market. A great place to indulge in a cup of fresh Monmouth Coffee, stock up on Neal's Yard cheeses and a few loaves of Poilane bread, along with various other mouth watering delicacies. It goes without saying that Borough Market is legendary, and therefore is often heaving with people, but Maltby Street Market is much quieter and more intimate - a special place, for locals, friends and those in the know.
But to me, there's an even more intriguing place on Maltby Street, and that is No. 40. The proprietors of this particular arch are Gergovie Wines, suppliers of really interesting wines from the likes of the Loire, Languedoc and Alsace. And what makes 40 Maltby Street especially great is that every Friday evening, Gergovie Wines opens the wonders of its arched 'cave' to the public to reveal a superb restaurant.
I took my friend Sarah along to check it out, and it was as wonderful as I'd imagined. As we turned the corner onto Maltby Street one Friday night, we joined the thirty or so other guests, some who were spilling from the arch onto the street outside, and enjoyed a glass of something cold from the bar. Being a rather lovely wine shop, there was a really varied selection to choose from. Sarah had a sparkling glass of white wine which had a very close resemblance to cider! Whilst perched at the bar, we observed the goings on in the open-plan kitchen, inhaled the fantastic cooking smells and chatted briefly to our hosts, Raef & Harry.
Before long, we took our seats at the long, simply dressed, tressle tables and ordered a recommended bottle of 'Viti Vini Bibi', which in turn, I highly recommend. A delicious red which went down a treat. The dinner was a real feast of artichoke and lemon parcels, mussels with chermoula, guinea fowl with an onion yoghurt medley, and a strange green vegetable I'd never heard of before - kohlrabi, with mint and pomegranate. The date, coffee & cardamon cake with creme fraiche was perfectly moist, and the 'Dragon's Breath' was one of the strangest and nicest things I've tasted. It was like eating the shredded contents of a duvet which tasted of sweet vanilla and dissolved beautifully on your tongue. I have no idea what it was made of, but there was definitely a pinch of heaven in there somewhere!
It was one of the nicest dinners I've been to, full of interesting people, great conversation and a lot of laughter. I love its simple style, and thought the food was sophisticated, exploratory and really delicious. It was a wonderful far cry from an average Friday night and I really look forward to dining there again. If you fancy a dinner with a difference, then I suggest you try it too, but it does get booked up, so email Raef to secure your table. Thank you Raef, Harry and the team for a really terrific evening!
Note: 40 Maltby Street no longer takes dinner bookings, but the bar is still open on Fridays and food is served in a non-menu format (Sept 2011)
40 Maltby Street
London SE1 3PA
4 course dinner £25 + wine