Establishment neighborhood
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.
Morito East
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.
E5 Bakehouse
Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace, Hackney
A passion project through and through for everyone involved in this fantastic bakery, E5 is way ahead of the curve, using local, organic flours to bake incredible sourdough country breads, ryes, and perfect pastries. The guys behind E5, founder Ben McKinnon and head baker Eyal Schwartz are both in their second career, having left the sustainability business and neuroscience worlds to delve deep into ancient grains and wild yeasts. What's come out of their impulsive career move is bread that has a cult following among foodies, and a bustling, jam-packed café. Plus, they're magnanimously sharing the knowledge in their weekly bread baking courses.
Momosan Shop
79a Wilton Way, Hackney
Momosan, a teensy, whitewashed space a few doors down from Violet Cakes on the up-and-coming Wilton Way, is a collection of beautiful, useful objects owner Momoko Mizutani has found on her travels. While there is a definite Japanese bent to the look and feel of the delicate glassware, quirky ceramics, and home-y odds and ends, these are her finds from friends across the world. Ceramic mugs by LA artist Peter Shire, London-based Jochen Holz' delicate colorblock glassware, Japanese incense, and more: It's a hodge podge, but a painstakingly edited one—and at great prices—making this an ideal gifting destination.