1 Westgate St., Hackney
Bright is exactly that. Tables are a bleached blonde, sun-saturated wood; walls are creamy linen white that borders on yellow; and the restaurant’s front is made entirely of glass. Settle into the high stools and rest against the wall. Bright speaks to the diner who wants to sink their teeth into perfectly toasted sourdough glistening with paper-thin cured pork belly, grilled radicchio stalks drowned in preserved cherries, and ropes of tagliolini swirled in porcini butter. And then there’s the wine. The owners are also the mavericks behind P. Franco and Noble Rot (two beloved London wine establishments), and the list is in line with their low-intervention, small-growers-only credo.
52 Wilton Way, Hackney
Getting central Londoners to go east for dinner is no easy feat, but Pidgin—the brainchild of two former architects and a food writer—makes the journey beyond Liverpool Street one you’ll want to undertake again and again (if you can get a table). The four-course menu changes every week, and impressively, in the two years Pidgin has been open, no dish has ever been repeated. Pidgin has earned a reputation for pushing the gastronomic envelope in a delicious, if unusual, direction. A sampling could include beetroot with fermented tofu, cashew, and shiso or pork with nettle, Romanesco, and hibiscus. It’s daring food executed well in a tiny, eight-table space that is never empty.
89 Kingsland High St., Hackney
"Jidori" is the Japanese word for chicken. And the restaurant lives up to its name. Most pieces come on skewers, cooked over aromatic charcoal. Order an assortment and a few perfect onigiri, but save room for spicy ginger ice cream drizzled in a miso-infused caramel for dessert. The space is simple and unadorned, the perfect foil for food that appears basic but is actually deeply flavored and meticulously prepared. Dinner at Jidori is remarkably affordable unless you hit the sake a little too hard. Book immediately.
195 Hackney Rd., Hackney
This was once the casual next door restaurant to husband and wife Sam and Samantha Clark's Exmouth Market hit, Moro, but it has since taken on a life of its own, in many ways surpassing its predecessor, and expanding into this new much bigger space in Hackney (the original is still in Clerkenwell). Morito is their take on the tapas bar, with a short but excellent list of wines, sherries, and strong cocktails, accompanied by exquisite small sharing plates of everything from padron peppers, to baked cheese, to traditional tortilla. This isn't your typical taperia, though: All the food comes infused with an extra dose of North African flavor and the vegetable dishes, like their crispy aubergine and beetroot borani, tend to steal the show.
116 Petherton Rd., Hackney
Hidden on a residential street in Canonbury, in an old garage with a beautiful old sign to prove it, Primeur feels eons away from London's bustle. On a warm day, the garage doors open and diners get to watch the evening light filter in while snacking on a fantastic Spanish cheese and sipping on one of the natural, mineral wines on their expertly chosen list. And then dive into the short but perfect menu, which changes daily, so much so that it arrives hastily handwritten. Share a few small plates of their ultra-seasonal fare and watch the world quietly go by outside the garage doors. For large groups, there's a private dining room downstairs in the wine cave.
Sager & Wilde
193 Hackney Rd., Hackney
Berber & Q
Arch 338, Acton Mews, Hackney
Though meat, and generous hunks of it at that, is the main attraction at this Middle-Eastern BBQ joint, the array of pickles and vegetarian side dishes are a major highlight here—the Moroccan Spiced Carrots and Blackened Eggplant are pretty great, just to name a couple. In fact, we'd build a meal out of side dishes alone here. We'd also recommend sharing plates with a group and coming ready for a night out as the cocktails, each with their own Middle Eastern twist, are lots of fun as is the music that ramps up as the night rolls on.
Unit 7, Queen's Yard, Hackney
On weekend afternoons, this warehouse bar and brewery is a haven for locals and young families who come for the wood fired thin-crust pizza served both indoors and canal-side. And, as the afternoon wears on, and the music turns up, the kids pizza parties get replaced by older groups of friends who come for the brewery's excellent beers, ales and local ciders. In other words, it's a pretty ideal place to while the afternoon away, in the sprawling, industrial space, drinking at the large communal tables both indoors and out. Open year-round, it's best in the summer, when you can take a leisurely walk down the canal until you reach the brewery.
Netil House, One Westgate St., Hackney
Helmed by Chef Matthew Young (formerly the head chef at the Wapping Project and Mayfields) and Sommelier Jack Lewens (of Spring fame) this new-ish space at the Netil house is a big deal. The pair have teamed up to create a menu of seasonal dishes that's heavily focused on wine pairings. Lewens curates the wines so that the selection is always changing, and then Young works around the wines to create his beautifully constructed dishes—he tends to think first about presentation and then about ingredients, which makes for a beautiful meal, whether it's for a dish and a glass of wine, or the full tasting menu (£38) and wine pairing (£30) experience.
Broadway Market, Hackney
Poco is a Bristol transplant that's arrived on Broadway Market full of good intentions and innovative tapas. You won't find any stale classics on this menu, and if you do happen to find some croquetas or fritto misto on the ever-changing list they will certainly be made with a twist and only the most local of ingredients. The whole local, seasonal thing may seem a little like an afterthought these days but over at Poco, it's the real deal—their mixologist forages some of his ingredients, they work with awesome growers and producers like Growing Communities and Kappacasein Dairy, and they also happen to cater eco-friendly sustainable meals for weddings and festivals. In short, they're doing things right.
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