Beer Moves

5 Jul

Hackney’s ever-expanding beer waistline.

This time last year there were no breweries in Hackney. As I write today there are four, that I know of, let me know if I miss any here, or if you’re starting one. Exciting times for the borough’s beer lovers or as I like to call them: beerliebers.

The first mover and shaker in Hackney was London Fields Brewery, started in August 2011 they have been on a rapidly rising trajectory ever since. With recent expansion to a larger sized brewery and now occupying four railway arches in London Fields they are going from strength to strength.

Over in De Beauvoir the next brewery to start the beer flowing was Beavertown Brewery, based in a pub/barbecue restaurant called Duke’s Joint. Billed as a “Brew and Que” they brew beer and serve it with American-style barbecue (long smoked not short incinerated) and a lot of rock and roll attitude (in a good way). Hardly surprising as the brew guy, Logan Plant, is the son of Rock God Robert.

Third out of the blocks is the eponymous Hackney Brewery. Started by a couple of Hackney residents with a pedigree of working in some of the best gastropubs around. They are having a meet the brewer event at The Seabright Arms (why not a Hackney pub?) THIS MONDAY (9th July 2012). So you should go, so should I!

Finally we have a brand-spanking new microbrewery and pizzeria called Crate over in Hackney Wick. Not quite open yet, and not actually in Hackney, just Hackney Wick which apparently is in Tower Hamlets…er whatever, it’s beer and that makes it alright. Chill.

London Fields Brewery
www.londonfieldsbrewery.co.uk
 
Beavertown Brewery
www.beavertownbrewery.com
 
Hackney Brewery
www.hackneybrewery.co.uk
 
Crate
www.cratebrewery.com

Chilli Down Me Trousers

22 Jun a jar of hoxton beach chutney

Blog-neglect, childcare and stained trousers.

I’m a terrible blogger, I have been neglecting my blog, I will never do it again, I’m sorry. I do have an excuse; I am the proud father of a new tiny Tommy Rumbles who has put paid to endless hours of flanneurism and bloggology, the little so-and-so!

I was in Clissold Leisure Centre with the baby strapped to me, trying to prevent him waking up. We were waiting for his mum to finish her swim and I was too scared to venture far, cos I’m not equipped to deal with a tummy-rumbling two month old. So I thought I’d venture into the Hoxton Beach Café which is the new(ish) misnomer for the in-centre café.

I like what I found! They bake their own sour-dough bread on the premises, make their own pizza and serve some delicious Lebanese specialities. I had a falafel wrap, it was massive and delicious. Packed with tangy pickles and chilli sauce which I managed to drip all down my trousers and over my shoes, but that was because I was standing up to eat. I was not trying out a new standing-up-eating regime because I was in a leisure centre, but because the little tinker strapped to me kept stirring when I tried to sit down.

Top tip for the Hoxton Beach Café falafel wrap, sit down and enjoy it.

Hoxton Beach Café
in Clissold Leisure Centre
63 Clissold Road
London N16 9EX
www.hoxtonbeach.com

Fred and Frantastic

28 Feb nice coffee

Irresistible culinary creations on Kynaston Road.

This is one of the most beautiful looking cakes I have ever seen. I don’t think the photograph can do it justice but have a look at this Middle Eastern orange cake with pistachio, candied fruit and rose petals. Amazing stuff. You won’t get this anywhere else because its been created on the premises by the proprietor of Fred and Fran. She is a very talented baker indeed. I saw this cake and just had to try it. No choice. It’s made with almond flour so it’s gluten-free (you know, for coeliacs), but don’t let that put you off! It’s as delicious as it looks.

Amazing cake!

Amazing cake!

If you haven’t tried Fred and Fran yet you should. It’s been going less than a year and is far enough from Church Street to have a local, unhurried, not too busy atmosphere (for now), but as word spreads it can only get busier and busier. They are showing others in this vicinity, not least the House café in Clissold Park, how it should be done. Keeping it local, homemade and top-quality.

The place is quite small but well thought-out, so it feels bright and spacious. Lots of nice quirky touches like the crumpled plastic-cup stools and the vintage milk bottles used as water jugs. But what really makes this place a unique experience is the care that goes into every cup and every morsel of food.

Fred and Fran
55 Kynaston Road
London N16 0EB
www.fredandfran.com

Cracking Crackling Captain!

25 Jan

At the heart of Dalston’s boulevard de la renaissance, A Little Of What You Fancy is unpretentious and welcoming.

A Little Of What You Fancy is a no-sign, ‘underground’ restaurant on a stretch of Kingsland Road officially (yes, officially!) known as The Waste. While this may not sound too inviting, these days you’re more likely to sustain a laughing injury due to the hats, shoes and facial hair of the Haggerston hipsters, than be accosted by the once ubiquitous Crack-fiends that patrolled this area on nights of yore.

A visit here is a pleasure, so much so that it seems churlish to mention the imperfections, such as a slightly over-salted salt and chocolate tart, or a piece of horseradish butter refusing to melt on a well-rested steak. Yeah, I know I just mentioned them, but that was just to get the tommy grumbles out of the way.

The restaurant has an atmosphere that manages to be both ‘different’ and relaxed at the same time.  The room smells of delicious food as soon as you walk in. It makes you think – yes, I want to eat here. I can smell grilled prawns and I want some.

Service combines charm and the sense of ownership and participation that you get from staff in the best places. Our waitress didn’t miss a trick – just saying the words “two jugs of wine” in casual conversation resulted in two jugs of wine being whisked to our table, one white one red. It felt like accidentally bidding on an item at an auction, but then being quite pleased with what you accidentally bought.

When ordering pork belly you are really only thinking about one thing – crackling – and here was a cracking example of one of the finest foodstuffs known to man. This crackling had me salivating like one of our old Crack-head friends smoking Crack in a Crack-house, I’d say this crackling was more addictive than Crack. Give me good crackling and I’ll forgive whatever rough edges you want to try me with. Salted caramel ice cream can do the same thing. So what’s so underground? Well, I did mention there’s no sign. If you want to find this place just look for the vacant-eyed, zombified crackling-fiends that now wander this stretch of The Waste.

(Sorry no photos, just wanted to eat, also too dark in here)

A Little Of What You Fancy
464 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AE
fancyfood464@gmail.com
020 7275 0060

Isn’t That a Pip!

12 Jan

The Russet, tucked away in Hackney Downs, is doin’ it and doin’ it and doing it well.

Scary Ginnel 1

Scary Ginnel 1

Hells yes! The Russet is one of those places that gets it right on every level. First of all it’s a discovery, you have to search it out, it is tucked away on Amhurst Terrace amidst the newly established Hackney Downs Studios. Whichever way you approach the place you have to walk down a scary ginnel to get there. The exterior is in contrast to the surrounding buildings and appears like a oasis in a desert of unloved industrial units. The Russet is also in an industrial building but they’ve given it a handmade facelift with a beautiful arch made of scaffold boards.

Inside more imaginitive and creative space design, a corridor formed of old joists allows you to see into the café space but leads you to the counter, where the first thing you see is a nice, shiny La Marzocco coffee machine. The next thing you see is how big this place is. Unlike a lot of new startup coffee places this is spacious, it’s still comfortable and cosy even, but it’s in no way cramped.

La Marzocco at the Russet

La Marzocco at the Russet

I ordered a long black, not too long. The difference between a long black and an Americano, as any fule kno (RIP Ronald Searle), is the order that the water goes in. For long black the water is already in the cup to which the espresso shots are added. The trainee barista didn’t seem to know this (clearly no fool), but his trainer put him straight, and also told him that the first thing we need to hear after a coffee order is the grinder. Fresh.

Front of The Russet

Front of The Russet

I was happy with my coffee, they use Union beans, which (whisper it) I happen to use at Tommy Towers, so it was a pleasingly familiar taste, served in a nice simple cup with saucer and a cool little spoon. There’s a sandwich menu, cakes and pastries too. The Russet is serious about local produce and seasonality, they do their own chutney, cakes are made with what’s in season, so there was the smell of mandarins in the air. They have plans to grow their own produce too in a garden area at the back! Oh yes, and get this, they make their own cola!!! Yes I said it. I just had to get some of that, takeaway though cos coffee and cola is too much even for me. I can’t wait to crack it open.

Homemade cola and ginger beer

Homemade cola and ginger beer

Saturday at The Russet is the Cider Sessions, where they have live music, real cider, local London Fields ale and a big old party.

There’s so much to say about this place, from the music, to the space, the design, the name (if you’ve been paying attention to my blog you’ll know that russets are my favourite apples), the care and attention to detail. They’ve only just opened but it looks like they’ll go from strength to strength. Seek it out, it’s literally. Off. The. Shizwang.

Scary Ginnel 2

Scary Ginnel 2

The Russet, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT.
www.therusset.co.uk

House about that then?

4 Jan

Clissold Park House opens with upmarket café.

Oh I forgot! In all the wind, rain, fare increases and back to work malaise of yesterday I forgot that Clissold House café opened its doors for the first time in it’s new guise. I happened to be passing this morning and saw the tables set up on the west terrace which jogged my memory. I didn’t have time for a full reccy but there’s always time for a double espresso.

The House logo

The House logo

The house and the whole of Clissold Park have been undergoing refurbishment for well over a year now and things are starting to take shape. The contract to run the café in the house was awarded (with some controversy, but not much) to Company of Cooks, who run the hospitality concessions at some of London’s most glamourous locations including The Royal Opera House, Kensington Gardens, Kenwood, Regent’s Park, Hyde Park etc. The controversy was that local providers were effectively excluded by the council as they only opened the tendering process to organisations with turnover of £1million+.

Anyhoo they’re in now so let’s see what they got. The coffee menu (printed on an ‘A’ board outside) is old school. No flat white, long black, pour-overs or aeropress, they do offer a ‘three cup cafetiere’ alongside the usual americano, espresso, cappuccino and latte. Prices, despite the grandeur of the venue, are reasonable: £1.65 for a double espresso, £2.10 for cappucino or latte.

The House west terrace

The House west terrace

The door on the west side of the building is a bit on the sticky side, so I wasn’t sure if they were open or not. A very friendly waiter opened up and told me this door was only for take away, or seating on the terrace. Fine, I was pushed for time, so I ordered my double espresso and took a chilly al fresco seat. When the drink arrived I was very impressed. What a crema! It was a thing of beauty, and served in a nice chunky espresso cup without the faff of a saucer. Great. Drinking it was a little dissapointing, but only a little. It was a very smooth and tasty cup, but not strong enough for my taste. It just lacked body. The flavour that was there was pleasant and lingered nicely too. For £1.65 delivered to the table this was very, very good. I will definitely be back. Next time I’ll go in the front door, I didn’t realise that the main entrance is on the front of the house (duh!), and try the food too.

According the the Company of Cooks and Hackney Council press release we should look forward to seasonal menus including local produce. I’ll be very interested to see on my next visit how much of the food on offer is being sourced in Hackney.

The House, Clissold Park, London N16
 
Nice crema!

Nice crema!

Stokey Smokie is Okey Dokie

24 Dec Hansen & Lydersen front door

Stoke Newington smoked salmon in the Norwegian style.

Buying fish on Twitter is a first for me. A week ago I took advantage of the generous offer that Hansen and Lydersen posted on Twitter; 20% off for Tweeted orders picked up from the smokery. Perfect. I get money off and a chance to visit a smokehouse producing famously great smoked salmon 10 minutes walk from my house! This is Tommy Rumbles territory. Big style.

So yesterday I set off to pick up my side of Norwegian-style smoked salmon. I got to Shelford Place N16 and wandered down past a ramshackle collection of artist studio spaces. At the end of the lane I started to get a whiff of fragrant smoke and a hand-written sign directed me round to the left. This place is well tucked away, it feels like you’re discovering a secret lair. Under a fire-escape staircase is an unassuming red door stencilled with a salmon. I’d arrived.

Inside the scene was a little chaotic. White tiled walls covered in red marker pen with numbers and calculations like the scrawlings of a mad professor, sides of salmon wrapped in paper being loaded into boxes and lists ticked off. It was Christmas order day in full swing. Clearly they are selling a lot of salmon and the logistics of getting them out on time are not controlled by Microsoft handheld stock check machines, but by humans. Imagine the elves in Santa’s grotto on 24th December, that scene recreated so many times in Disneyesque Christmas films, but instead of toys think beautiful blushing pink salmon. In the corner of the room a wood-burning stove was connected to a flue which led out to a dark and smoky room just beyond. And the smell was amazing.

Salmon smoking

Salmon smoking

At the centre of the activity was a tall, blond-haired chap in wellies and an apron. The smokemaster; Ole Hanson, conducting operations with a steely scandinavian calm. As the delivery driver left with his box of orders the atmosphere relaxed a bit and focus shifted to getting queueing customers supplied. All were welcome to step through the rough-hewn portal at the back of the room for a tour of the smoke-room. Everything has an artisan quality, functional but also beautiful, from the chopping block fashioned from a log, to the smoke-room and cold storage areas where the delicately coloured fish hang like Christmas baubles. This is a guerilla salmon smoking operation and all the better for it.

I can’t wait to try the salmon I bought (saving it for Christmas day), but I also couldn’t wait to blog about this place, because it’s such an experience. If the sights and smells of Hansen and Lydersen are anything to go by this salmon is going to be amazing!

Hansen and Lydersen, 3-5 Shelford Place, London N16 9HS
Smoked salmon chillin'

Smoked salmon chillin'