It’s opening week of The London Plane (Phase 1), Matt Dillon’s (Bar Sajor, Sitka & Spruce) new spot in Pioneer Square. Seattle Weekly covered Dillon’s part in the revival of the neighborhood recently here.
Intended to be a hybrid bakery, café, grocery and wine shop, with the current corner devoted to retail and the north corner, opening in November, focused on the bakery, the deli and the prepared foods, The London Plane feels like it’s indeed missing its other half. The large lofty space has a wall devoted to cookbooks, soaps, wines, single stem flowers and other pretty homewares and feels like a precious “bourgeois-erie.” Yet the communal wood tables and the bar suggest that this is indeed a place to eat. So eat we did. Eventually.
The only people who seemed a little confused by the bevy of offerings and the layout of the space besides us were the employees. Though friendly and earnest, none of them could really solidly direct us to sit and order. Once we determined that we could sit at the bar or a table and someone would take our order (after we were told to walk to the corner, place an order, and then wait for it to be brought to us), things began to get better. The food available to order, we discovered, was just what was out in big serving bowls on a corner of the bar, seemingly set up buffet style (but not).
We were given a small menu that listed what the 8 choices were – all vegetarian cold salads that I overheard a waiter/barista/server? tell an inquiring customer were “North African/Mediterranean” dishes. After some more confusion over how to order; we picked four things we wanted but a waitress/hostess? pointed out that we could do the three small salad or three large salad combo and just add an additional dish to that and an order of bread. Great. That worked.
The food itself I’m happy to report was wonderful and plentiful. A carmelized brassica (a version of romenescu basically) and chickpea puree with za’atar (a sumac/sesame seed spice used in Mediterranean cooking) was zesty but allowed the flavor of the vegetables and chickpeas their due. The romesco of hazelnuts, almonds, red pepper & pimenton was more one note, but it was still quite good and very spreadable (thus, perfect with the bread). Billy’s tomatoes were as red and ripe as they should be in the summer and shared space with shisito peppers (a tad bland) and tarragon drizzled with tahini. Perhaps my favorite dish of all – to my great surprise since I’m normally not a fan of cold, grain-based salads, was the cracked wheat, zucchini, “a couple seeds” & “many herbs.” It had just the right amount of toothsome crunch yet was unexpectedly bright and memorable. We would have loved to try the salami, but that’s not available until the evening.
My glass of a French Vouvray (reasonably priced at $7) was light, crisp and the kind of white wine you want with a simple spread of salads. It was almost as good as my friend’s elderberry soda.
The portions were so ample that I carried a box back to my office and let my vegetarian co-worker dig in and weigh in. The verdict: excellent.
I won’t be buying flowers at The London Plane (especially when I can get a beautiful bunch at the weekly Farmer’s market in Occidental Square), but I will be coming back to check in on what’s started out as a great place to grab a delicious, spunky vegetarian lunch with kind people doing their best to work through new opening kinks.