There’s a pattern developing in London at the moment. It seems like the further you venture out, the better things get. And we’re not just talking about the price of renting. This week we’ve been munching our way around east London and in the process, we’ve stumbled across some real gems. Oh, the things we do for you guys, eh…
1. The Richmond, Hackney
The Richmond is the perfect neighbourhood restaurant; the type you’ve always wished would open up at the end of your road. We’ve spent a bit too much time on spareroom.com since coming here because it’s no longer just the cheap(er) rent prices that are making Hackney so appealing but the restaurants with soul, and The Richmond is brimming with it. It was quite clear that everyone eating, working and drinking on the night we came to check it out was food-obsessed; from intimate dates to a group of old friends, most peoples’ conversations revolved around the menu, or they otherwise just communicated in grunts of satisfaction. It was a language we became fluent in too, as soon as the Burrata and preserved lemon starter passed our lips: “Oh-mbrusshh-oh-maa-god”. Truly, there are no words. (See more: the best pubs in Hackney.)
There’s a heavy emphasis on seafood on the menu – The Richmond prides itself as being “east London’s first and only” raw bar – but the hearty squid and seafood stew will satisfy any meat man. The dishes aren’t too dainty and the flavours aren’t too subtle: oysters may be an option but it’s certainly not pretentious. This extends to the decor too; thankfully free from some of the ridiculous trends that have turned Shoreditch into some kind of nightmare parody-land in the last few years. At The Richmond, glossy, Georgian red paintwork, a marble-topped bar and wooden floors keep the interiors smart, sophisticated and so, so stylish. There’s also Negronis on the cocktail list. This is east London, after all. But the real show-stealer? The bread. A true marker of quality, theirs comes fresh from the oven. We ordered two baskets.
316 Queensbridge Road, E8 3NH
2. Gunpowder, Spitalfields
We’re the kind of people that have been going to the same curry house in Hammersmith for 20 years. We’ll try anything new in London, but when it comes to Indian food, we’re embarrassingly lamb-rogan-josh-and-a-cobra, please. It’s hard to believe that we still haven’t found anywhere worthy of conversion in the curry-mile that is Brick Lane, so thank the lord for Gunpowder, a tiny family-run restaurant in Spitalfields that is, quite literally, explosive. Taking everything you thought you knew about Indian food and turning it swiftly on its head; there are no chunks of meat swimming in gravy here but small plates, dry spice and punchy flavours, all served in a buzzing, exposed-brick 24-seater where, surprise-surprise, they don’t take bookings.
You can’t fault owner-manager Harneet Baweja, who attends to us with upmost charm, whilst simultaneously driving plates around, shouting orders to smiling staff and assuring satisfied diners that he’ll see them soon. We would hazard a guess that he most probably will because the food is outstanding. Start with a spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut and then move on to aloo chat – the potatoes are roasted and then smashed, skin-on, and come covered in a criss-cross of yoghurt, black chickpeas, onion, tomatoes, tamarind and fried lotus root. The best kind of comfort food. The kashmiri lamb chops are succulent and spicy enough to make your nose run whilst the tandoori paneer is the perfect option for veggies. And who knew broccoli would be the most exciting thing we’ve eaten all week? At Gunpowder it comes whole, with a sharp knife jutting out and smothered in a mustard seed sauce – dramatic in appearance and taste, now there’s a way to get kids excited about green veg. Definitely don’t skimp on pudding, either. No After Eights here, just molten spice chocolate cake with masala chai custard. Sorry Anarkarli, we’ve found a new Indian.
11 White’s Row, E1 7NF
3. La Cabina, Dalston
Down underground, beneath the shops and barbers of Dalston’s Kingsland Road lies a small gem of a tapas bar. A gem that, if you’re not careful, you’ll miss entirely because it’s situated behind a plain metal door that has on it a speakeasy-style phone for you to dial a secret number in order to be let in. We walked straight past it 3 times. Immediately La Cabina‘s tagline ‘Tapas from Seville to Shoreditch’ makes sense, and making our way down in the tiny underground space, we prepared ourselves for a seriously quirky (and what turns out to be totally delicious) night of tapas and cocktails. The hybridity works like a charm. Its 5am closing time (Thursday to Saturday) and atmosphere oozes laid-back hispanic influences, while the eccentric staff and exposed brick cements its place securely in Dalston.
The menu, put together by Javier Vincente of Tooting’s Little Taperia, consists of an impressive variety of dishes, with Jamon Iberico to Haggis Scotch Eggs. The Mini Roasted Chorizo in red wine and Pimientos de Padrón were the highlight for us…but it was the cocktails (as well as the fabulously friendly staff) that stole the show. Their Summer in Serrano was simple and sweet and very, very drinkable: honey and vanilla vodkas, fresh melon, lemon juice with ginger beer, and garnished with Serrano ham and melon. Their off-the-menu Mali Mali quite literally blew our socks off. We didn’t stay past 11, but were told by fellow diners that later on things start to get quite a bit more lively. Stick around for the DJ and (undoubtedly) a lot more drinks and you could be in for an entirely different kind of night…
232 Kingsland Road, E2 8AX
Pssst. We’ve got a secret for you. Secret London will soon be making their own special off-menu cocktail at La Cabina. Only those in the know will be able to try it. We’ll keep you posted…