The problem with algorithms is that they always go stale. There are only so many series similar to The OC you want to watch. And only so many ceramic peeler-like products you’re truly interested in. Two Lights is a restaurant that feels like its component parts have been come from an east London restaurant algorithm. It’s got the snacks you want ten of. It’s got the pretty-looking sharing plates. It’s got the monochrome aesthetic. Yet, all together, it doesn’t quite add up.
Two Lights is under a bridge and opposite a bus stop in Shoreditch. A decade ago this would have been quite edgy, but these days the area is more James Blunt than Dean Blunt. The menu is designed with your neurones in mind: colourful and full of words like schnitzel and yuzu, and meat loaf and sandwich. Things to get your brain intrigued and excited. Usually that excitement starts in your head and increases as more and more food arrives. Only at Two Lights, it doesn’t always work like that.
Initially, you’re likely to be seduced by this place. We certainly were. Whether it’s the crab on a chip-cum-confit potato, or the caesar lettuce wedge, something will get you. Both of these are silent-nodding-ly delicious. They fall into that classic menu snack section that leaves you humming More, More, More. But soon, you’ll want the opposite. That’s because things like a sardine katsu sandwich, or the custard tart with caramel, read better on the pink pastel menu, or sit nicer on the yellow ceramic plate, than anywhere else.
Making something out of a combination of things that people like is a risky game. It can be jarring, like Pasta Hut. Or it can be ingenious, like Two Light’s chocolate fondant with Guinness ice cream. Or their roasted carrots with slices of lardo on top. Unfortunately these winning combinations aren’t consistent enough. The longer you spend here - eating brisket rigatoni alla fridge leftovers, or a pretty but so-so tasting schnitzel - the more you’ll find yourself looking longingly at the bus stop directly outside.
That said, Two Lights remains a good restaurant. Especially considering you can easily share a meal for two here for twenty odd quid a head. The problem is that it just isn’t quite as good as it makes you think it will be. It lures you in with a crabby chip, and then lets you down by only giving you one. Which is okay if that’s all you’ve come for. But if an algorithm has directed you towards Two Lights for a celebratory dinner, or a classy lunch, then let us tell you: there are better restaurants to head to in Shoreditch.
This is a cruel, flirtatious, sexy wink of a snack. It’s £3.50 for a spoon of dressed crab on a perfectly crisp confit potato. A delicious tease.
A slab of iceberg lettuce smothered in a salty caesar sauce and covered in croutons and cheese for good measure. This is our kind of salad.
This is a cruel combination if you’re a vegetarian but a happy one if you’re not.
A charred and melt in your mouth bit of meat. If it’s on the menu, order it.
You know when you get in, open the fridge, and see a lot of bits of old meals that you think will work but invariably don’t? This is that.
A fine B+ of a sandwich. The ratio of meatloaf needs to be increased, but the combination of melted cheese, crispy onions, and jalapeno sauce is a winner.
This looks like something Colonel would make if he was on LSD. Unfortunately it tastes a bit gloopy.
This is the pretty and tasty dessert.
This is the pretty but not so tasty dessert.