At the end of last month, chef-restaurateur Nicholas Balfe opened his follow-up restaurant, Levan in Peckham.
Balfe, who before opening his debut restaurant — Salon in Brixton in 2013 — worked under the Young Turks (Isaac McHale and James Lowe before they opened The Clove Club and Lyle’s, respectively) at the Ten Bells in Spitalfields, was among a group of chefs who acted as torchbearers of a British version of Parisian neo-bistro culture. He, like a number of others in the city in the early 2010s, moved to energise the fine-dining category in London, while simultaneously reframing what a local ‘bistro’ could be.
So to Levan, five years later, still south of the river, and a restaurant expressly “inspired by the new wave of bistronomy that began in the quartiers of Paris and has spread through the neighbourhoods of Copenhagen and Barcelona.”
As an all-day operation, Levan will “focus on contemporary European dishes, and low-intervention and natural wines.” The two-part restaurant in a converted warehouse block features a bar, with high tables and window ledges (for walk-in guests) and a dining room, decked out with handsome mahogany-topped tables and mid-century modernist chairs.
Take a look inside.
Levan will open early in the morning with pastries, baked on site, as well as sourdough tartines with house cured salmon, goat’s curd and pickled elderberries, and croque monsieur made with aged comte.
Lunchtimes will “take their cue from bistro culture on the continent”: aiming to meet the demands of working lunches with dishes like potato, chanterelle and Vacherin pie; a salad of figs, candied walnuts and Tymsboro goat’s cheese; or a slice of apple tarte tatin with Ivy House cream.
At dinner: “Small, inventive plates” double as snacks or starters. They’ll include Comté fries with saffron aioli; and boudin noir, egg yolk, and endive. Bigger dishes will include smoked pollack, spinach, asparagus and vin jaune; and 50-day aged rump cap, with wild garlic aioli and grilled calçots. In the spirit of Salon’s commitment to sustainability, the kitchen will apply whole-animal butchery and draw on seasonal local produce.
Balfe has said he’s looking forward to bringing his “sustainable approach to cooking” to a what he calls a more “European style” of restaurant, which will have a focus on wines made in the left-field. “We picked the name because we’re all huge fans of Larry Levan, an iconic music producer and DJ who essentially tore up the rulebook and wrote the blueprint for what dance music would become,” he said.