At the top of Brick Lane in overcrowded, hipster central used to be Green & Red, a Mexican restaurant and underground bar with some of the worst atmosphere I’ve ever encountered. I remember spending Halloween 2009 there. It was a good party, but the space was cramped, ugly and the staff all looked like they were out to kill (which may have been more of a symptom of Halloween than their general disposition, but still. The mark had been made in my mind).
Fast forward a year and a bit, and Green & Red is now Shoreditch’s newest ampersanded restaurant: Mason & Taylor.
I was invited to come by and check it out, which I did so anonymously a few Sundays ago*.
Walking in, it’s already an improvement. Mixing comfort with a little industrial, the place is far cosier than what my picture suggests, and I quite like it.
I started taking a look at the menu. It’s clear from the word go that Mason & Taylor is the place to go if you like and appreciate beer. Me, I’m more of a wine gal, but that didn’t stop me for perusing and trying something new: the Chimay Blonde, served in a near-challis that probably impressed me more than the beer inside. I’m easy to please, apparently. My friend Andrew, who just returned to London after travelling in the States for a few months, was especially happy to see Sierra Nevada on the menu:
Ready for food, and having done a bit of research before, I was excited to try the scotch eggs I saw on the menu online as a starter (For some reason lately, I can not get enough scotch eggs. I’m beginning to think I have a problem), but upon looking at the printed menu at our table… shock! horror! no eggs.
Cheekily, I asked the server if they had any, by chance. He looked doubtful, but quickly went to go check with the kitchen, and lo-and-behold, they could make up to two portions. Lesson learned: It never hurts to ask.
The Scotch Quails Eggs with Gribiche (£4.50):
Nice crispy exterior with a not-too-runny egg, good savoury sausage casing. I only wish it was a normal sized one instead of a quail’s eggs. The gribiche sauce was just the right balance of tartness with a good range of texture.
Only thing that really brought it down was the presentation, which sort of became the theme of the lunch. Good food, not amazing, but good – served on depressing plates with absolutely no regard for balance, space, negative space or anything, really.
We also had the English Rabbit with Gherkin (£3.50):
Our server warned us this wasn’t rabbit in the way we were probably thinking, and for £3.50 I expected that. It was more like a open-faced meat spread and cheddar toastie. Again, the taste was fine – a bit conventional, perhaps, I certainly could have made the same thing at home – but the presentation was just horrible. Completely unappetising.
On Sundays, Mason & Taylor roll out the roasts, and so for mains we went with the Rare Roast Sirloin with Horseradish Cream, Yorkshire Pudding and Duck Fat Roast Potatoes (£14.50) and the veggie option with Roasted Butternut Squash and Olive Oil Potatoes (£9):
The roasted vegetables on both dishes were absolutely fantastic, particularly the parsnips, which seemed to be brushed with a bit of honey. They were scrumptious. Ditto the thin delectable slices of butternut squash and duck fat potatoes. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the actual beef, which was sliced too thinly and therefore overcooked to about medium/medium well, but overall the dishes were decent enough.
Far too stuffed for dessert, we asked for the bill. Throughout the meal, service was adequate enough. I’m very pleased I got my scotch eggs, after all, but as they got busier, they seemed to be incredibly rushed and things deteriorated. My friend had to go to the bar to find out where the glass of wine he ordered 20 minutes prior with his roast was. It’s not an uncommon practice here though, sadly.
In total, the bill would have come to £57, which does seem a bit steep to me for the sort of place I think Mason & Taylor currently is right now. For the moment, I’ll chalk it up to growing pains. If they just tweak a few things (presentation, attention to detail), they could be really good, and exactly what the area needs.
*I was an anonymous guest of Mason & Taylor, meaning that instead of my meal being comped on the day, I was instead reimbursed at a later time. I dined without the server or staff knowing I was a food blogger, which I’ve found is the only true way to get an authentic ‘off the street’ experience