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March 22, 2023updated Mar 23, 2023

Cycene is Redefining the Fine Dining Experience

Restaurant of the Week: Cycene belongs to new breed of London restaurants that go beyond the realm of just food.

By Kim Ayling

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d got a bit lost in your pursuit to find Cycene. Instead of a restaurant front, you’re greeted by a locked glass door and a buzzer on a quiet Shoreditch backstreet. Press that buzzer and a smiley host will quickly come and usher you in – you were in the right place after all.

Found inside Blue Mountain School, an innovative gallery, retail space, studio and library, Cycene is the brainchild of chef Theo Clench, and Blue Mountain School’s founders, James and Christie Brown. Since it opened in October 2022, the restaurant has captured the attention of London’s devoted foodie crowd, garnering a reputation for its novel take on modern fine dining.

Cycene belongs to a new breed of restaurant in the British capital that goes beyond the realm of just food. Instead, an evening (or even a lighter lunch) here is an all-encompassing experience that redefines what it is to go out for dinner.

[See also: The Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of 2023]

cycene bar
All meals start with bone broth in the bar / ©Rebecca Dickson


Assuming charge of Cycene is Theo Clench. Clench’s culinary career began in Brighton before he moved to London to test his skills in the capital’s fiercely competitive restaurant scene.

Pivotal moments in Clench’s career were his stints as head chef at Portland, a Modern European restaurant in Fitzrovia, and more recently, executive chef at Akoko – an elevated take on West African cuisine.

Clench’s signature style sees him take what are traditionally simple ingredients (with a few luxe additions) and extract maximum flavor potential. The result is interesting and always well executed – few restaurants in London are serving food quite like that at Cycene right now.

[See also: What to Expect from Yannick Alléno’s First London Restaurant]

chef Theo clench
Chef Theo Clench / ©Rory van Millingen


An experience at Cycene will always begin in the ground-floor bar, where guests are served both a cocktail – make sure it’s the butter-washed old fashioned – and a bowl of bone broth in an artisanal ceramic beaker. With it comes a crusty, crunchy mini sourdough loaf wrapped in linen and three varieties of butter to thickly slather on top. It’s a simple yet divine start to a meal which sets the tone for the evening to come.

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Bone broth slurped, guests are invited to make their way upstairs into the main dining room. The rest of the menu begins with a trio of snacks: Silky-soft squares of duck liver wrapped in red pepper powder look more sweet than savory; balls of aged comte cheese are topped with pickled walnut ketchup and a caramelized onion tuille; and a delicate tart case is filled with Devonshire crab and fermented kombu.

Don’t get too comfortable, however, as you’re out of your seat again for the next course. Poached oysters, charred with charcoal and covered in a vibrant pickled cucumber sauce and osteria caviar, are served in the middle of the kitchen that bustles with chefs mid-service.

[See also: Coworth Park Introduces Woven by Adam Smith]

duck liver snack
Duck liver with red pepper / ©Rebecca Dickson
turbot dish at cycene restaurant
The signature slow-cooked turbot / ©Rebecca Dickson

The menu continues in a similarly thoughtful vein. Although the restaurant tries to avoid pigeonholing, Clench cites Eastern Asia and Australasia as his primary influences and the flavors of the two regions gently weave through his dishes, as does his love for seafood. Cavatelli pasta, for example, swims in a silky miso sauce and is topped with an earthy cassava souffle and delicate kinome.

The signature slow-cooked turbot is another wonderful showcase of Clench’s Asian culinary influence, with the delicate white fish acting as a dam for a bright-green lettuce sauce on one side, and a bone caramel and sake sauce on the other.

Each dish that leaves Clench’s kitchen is impossibly thoughtful, delicate yet indulgent and simply presented but always beautiful.

The drinks list too is clearly a product of hour upon hour of thought. While virtually all decent restaurants offer a wine pairing and some very good ones will have a non-alcoholic alternative, Cycene takes things one step further with a ‘half-and-half’ option, where glasses of fine wine are alternated with homemade kombuchas. It’s a revelation (not least for the lack of hangover) and an option I can’t wait to hopefully see in more restaurants. 

[See also: How the Prestigious Michelin Star System Really Works]


cycene private dining room
The Hearth Room / ©Rebecca Dickson

Naturally, food of this caliber needs a suitably special dining room to enjoy it in. Cycene’s interiors are the work of Blue Mountain School’s in-house interior firm, BMS Studio, which has created a multi-floor restaurant that is equal parts welcoming and sophisticated. The downstairs bar where you’ll be sipping that rich bone broth is dimly lit, with roughly plastered walls creating an oh-so effortless yet brilliantly stylish space.

Upstairs, the dining room is a touch more glam yet still artfully understated. Homey rugs sit underfoot, with a Frank Auerbach portrait gazing over prettily dressed tables. The room is intimate, with space for just 16 on tables accommodating up to four guests.

Through the starkly contrasting stainless steel kitchen is the Hearth Room which acts as Cycene’s private dining room, with space for up to six. Double-, maybe even triple-height ceilings soar above a rustic wooden table, with a statement paper chandelier and hand-painted wall tiles adding an extra touch of intrigue. At weekends, the Hearth Room plays host to a slighter smaller Saturday lunch menu, too.

[See also: The Most Iconic Restaurants of the Elite Traveler Era]

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