Tag Archives: e8

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
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.

Long Table, Long Wait, Long May it Continue!

28 Nov mushroom, lemon and ricotta pizza

Dalston’s night market draws a crowd.

With night markets being the new pop-up-restaurant, or the new vintage-bicycle-boutique, or the new coffee-milk-bullshit (ta Larry David!) we had to be at Dalston’s new Friday night effort! We made the schoolboy error of sauntering down Kingsland Road in flaneur style which meant we were caught in the queue. And what a queue it was, longer than for an Egyptian polling booth, it snaked right down Abbot Street, round the corner and back to Dalston Junction (the people of Hackney are hungry!). In the queue we chatted with a couple of tummy-rumbling hipsterkids asking how they’d heard about the event?

“The whole area’s a-buzz about it!” the cold, shrugging lad said “we’re meeting people inside, should be incredible if we can hold out from sneaking a crafty McDonalds!”

I think he managed to stop himself from ducking in for a Filet’o’fish, which is good because after an hour and a half the line finally shuffled us inside to a food arena of the gods. A kind man with free pizza calmed our barking bellies, and we began our search.

First port of call was Cassava Creole for southern-style prawn gumbo, a nice large plate for 6 pound sterlin’. This is a dish that can be done very badly in the wrong hands, not here! Delicately spiced rice, beautifully seasoned veggies and a nice chunk of cornbread.

We eyed up the oysters, hot-dogs, ribs and burgers but couldn’t resist more pizza, cooked nice and thin and slightly crisp in a wood-fired oven. We opted for lemon ricotta and mushroom that was served as a large slice; at £3 we were happy with our choice (possibly just a little heavy on the ricotta!).

To be fair we’d eaten a decent nosh and still had change from a tenner, so we were delighted; super-duper. We hadn’t been banking on the queue so couldn’t linger due to a prior engagement with a pint of Brewdog Trashy Blonde at the nearby Railway Tavern Ale House.

Dalston’s first Long Table was a great success and I’m looking forward to my next chowdown throwdown. The venue, and the thought and energy that went into it, created a great buzz reminiscent of a Mutate Britain or Vauxhall Car Boot event. The choice of international foods conjuring up an atmosphere of the banquet halls of Bedouin royalty or the crowded party streets of New Orleans!

“Please Sir, Can I have some more!”

dalston long table

The Long Table Abbot Street, Dalston


Dalston Pop-up Street-food Market

23 Nov

Getting excited about The Long Table on Abbot Street on Friday night. A night market in Dalston with proper tasty street food.

Have a look at this website for more info: