The Cru crew are injecting some dude food into leafy, sleepy Kew
Let's hear it for all the delicious things happening in Kew. Mister Bianco is pumping out a sweet swag of Italian dishes with a modern sensibility, St Katherine's is serving up whole pig if you call ahead and ask nicely, and down the road, Café Ora is offering one of the best hangover-appeasing sandwiches in town. That hot duck roll is worth crossing town for – twice. And now there's Cru, the café and wine bar that's tipping the balance in this 'hood from sleepy suburb to dining destination.
Take a seat at Cru’s communal table and as the sunlight glints off the majestic domed church opposite, pretend you're in Florence. An imposing white marble-topped bar bisects the space, while striking emerald-hued water vessels channel the green fairy. Open since mid-June, this project by couples Peter and Annie Rose and Robyn and Andrew Pickering is making lunch in Kew less cucumber sandwich and more vitello tonnato baguette. That's veal in a creamy tuna-flavoured cream sauce, since you ask – and it's far better than it sounds.
The menu doffs its hat to Paris and the Middle East. Try the classic French galette filled with Puy lentils, sumac feta and meaty edamame. Drawing on a stint at Mecca Bah and his Tunisian heritage, chef Justin Cortellino takes plain porridge and injects sultry exoticism with pistachios, figs and rose petals. There’s a good showing of dude food but we’re talking less brawn and more brain. Cru’s slider has a herbaceous fava bean patty, punchy Manchego cheese and zingy house-made eggplant kasundi (spicy relish), with curled beetroot crisps on the side. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Upstairs is a mini nursery-cum-science-lab, where micro greens for garnishes are lovingly nurtured and red peppers get the hot smoker and dehydrator treatment to become intense, sweet paprika. Down below, manager Rosie Gregory runs a merry band of switched-on young staff while head barista Gus Hean (ex-Der Raum) charms silky Five Senses coffee through the Synesso. Cold drinks go from Berocca to fresh juices like the 'Phlavours of Pho', a banging blend of Thai basil, cucumber, fennel and aniseed sugar syrup.
Tiny Cru can get more crammed than the number 16 tram, and those perched at the bar might find themselves buffeted by every coming and going lady-who-lunches. There’ll be more room to spread out when the courtyard and shed finish metamorphosing into a back bar, which will see Cru open in the evenings for wine, sliders and terrines.
In this old money 'burb, our money’s on a bright future for the Cru crew.