40 Maltby Street, London SE1 – restaurant review

‘The food that issues from the postage-stamp-sized kitchen is all pretty much faultless: not a beat is missed’

Of all the dishes we have at 40 Maltby Street, it’s the most unprepossessing that makes us sit up, blinking and gasping, “Wow, this is really, really good.” Pig’s head broth with cabbage dumplings: it doesn’t exactly bark “Sexxxxy!” in the way that maybe Dexter shortribs with mustard, or roast partridge with spinach, bacon and jerusalem artichoke tart might.

Under normal circumstances, it’s not a dish I’d ever order, either. Too ascetic for the sybaritic, greedy likes of me. But on a Friday lunchtime, there are only four dishes that aren’t charcuterie (pleasingly stiff and fatty Basque sausage studded with peppercorns, served with first-class sourdough baguette) or a selection of well-kept cheeses. So, in a spirit of what-the-hell, we order the lot. I expected that broth to be something along the lines of Japanese tonkotsu, gummy and milky with collagen from long-simmered bones. Instead, it’s a shimmering, limpid bouillon with an aroma of farmyard pork and a depth of flavour that makes you sip and swill it like a vintage wine. The cabbage rolls – crinkly savoy that retains its bite – contain a stuffing studded with fat chunks of floury chestnut, perhaps the ferrous suggestion of offal: a mouthful of astonishing length.

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