The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

"В моем словаре нет слова «невозможно»." Наполеон Бонапарт ZMEY
Время на прочтение: 18 минут(ы)

Everyone knows about Shoreditch’s best restaurants, with its Michelin stars and impossible-to-snag tables. But elsewhere in east London, there’s more foodie treasures to find.

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Oklava, Hackney

    A next-gen Turkish worth talking about in East London

    Like many of you, I’d wager, I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with halloumi; there have been highs of course – the barbecue in South Africa, the postmodern kebab on Hoxton Street – but there have been plenty of lows too. On a recent stag do in Derbyshire I was served strips of something insanely salty and screamingly white that had the consistency of a travel-pack tissue dropped in the bath. It was, admittedly, at a pub chosen only because of its proximity to the go-kart track, but nonetheless it looked like we might be over, me and Turkish cheese. And then I went to Oklava and ate the grilled hellim and we were back on and then some. For this I have to thank Oklava’s chef-patron, London-born Selin Kiazim who mines her Turkish Cypriot heritage to create thrillingly modern dishes, which she serves up in this smart Shoreditch restaurant.

    FOOD

    Where to start but with the hellim? The cheese is sourced from an artisan producer in Cheshunt of all places, before it’s hewn into great hunks, flamed over charcoal and then drenched in oregano and honey. We fought over it like a pair of pack animals. Absurdly, it wasn’t even the most extravagant dairy dish on the menu, an honour which went to a medjool date butter, which we happily slathered on spiced bread. As you’ve probably intuited by now, this is not the Turkish food of Green Lanes, say, or Dalston (which is of course fantastic), but something richer, more decadent, more Instagrammable, its essence captured perfectly by the Black Sea Cheese and Butter Pide, which comes with the perfect yellow dome of a soft-cooked egg yolk quivering in the middle of it. Other highlights include a head of roast cauliflower heaped with spices and pistachios and a şeftali kebab, which comes pleasingly pink.

    DRINK

    There’s a healthy homegrown cocktail list stuffed with Turkic influences: sumac and pomegranate, rose water and raki. But really this is a place to come and have your preconceptions about wines from the eastern Mediterranean turned on their head. The list is wholly made up of Greek, Armenian and Turkish wines, with the latter to the fore. The Pasaeli vineyard is a revelation. Seyit Karagözoglu only planted his first vines in Izmir in 2002 but the wines have a sophistication that suggests a more storied pedigree. Try the 6N, a lovely light red made with local Karasakiz grapes, or their Pasaeli, a lovely buttery white.

    VERDICT

    A modern Turkish restaurant with a surprising wine list that caters to vegetarians with the same care it gives to carnivores. By David Annand

    Address: Oklava, 74 Luke Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4PY


    Telephone: +44 20 7729 3032


    Book online

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Silo, Hackney Wick

    Zero-waste pioneers bring innovative sustainable cooking to a warehouse in Hackney Wick

    When chef Douglas McMaster opened Silo in Brighton in 2014, most people’s response to ‘zero waste’ would have been ‘zero what?!’ McMaster was well and truly ahead of the green curve with his innovative approach to cooking based on the simple but quite out-there idea of not having a bin. Nothing at all is wasted in McMaster’s highly creative kitchen – the whole restaurant has its own well-considered ecosystem, from ingredients being bought directly from local farmers and arriving packaging-free, to leftovers being composted in the on-site bio-digester. McMaster is on a mission to close the loop in the food production process and feed people delicious feasts in the process. As sustainability moves to the forefront of our consciousness, it makes perfect sense that he’d want to relocate his dining offering; and so he’s upped sticks and moved to a slick new canal-side site, joining Cornerstone as another Hackney Wick fine-dining pioneer. McMaster’s approach to food extends to every element of the restaurant: the sleek industrial space above Crate brewery is kitted out with upcycled materials (the crockery is made from old wine bottles turned into glass porcelain) and fittings that can be disassembled in the future. Impressively, it still manages to look very stylish. So high is the quality of food and experience, in fact, that if it wasn’t for the earnest cheery staff who painstakingly explain the backstory of every single element of the experience, you could very easily forget that you were eating yesterday’s old potato peelings.

    FOOD

    One glance at the concise menu projected onto the back wall (they don’t print the food menus as they change so often) and diners will spot McMaster’s unusual ingredient pairings. The failsafe Siloaf – aka the house sourdough bread – is first up. Made from flour milled on site, it has a moreish, cakey texture and a crunchy crust, and is served – and best eaten – with a thick slab of rich aged butter. Then there’s a perky appetiser of kimchi pickled radish roll stuffed with earthy hemp ricotta, followed by trick beetroots: sweet golden beetroots glazed to make them look like their more rosy cousins and served on salty handmade ricotta with a sourdough miso sauce made from yesterday’s loaves. The bread is the first of many ingredients that reappear throughout the meal in different forms. Next up are squishy caramelised Jerusalem artichokes toasted in the kitchen’s central open fire with a Stichelton cheese sauce and a treacle made from old vegetable peelings – such a shocking contrast that it makes your eyes bulge, in a good way. Similarly, the pink fir potatoes with whey caramel are a taste revelation: rich, umami and unlike anything else. And it romps on, a succession of flavours that jar, but work, until the puddings, which are just as creative and wild: a sunshine-rich pumpkin ice cream, tart sea buckthorn snow and silky crème fraîche. Get the daily tasting menu to try as many dishes as possible: every single one – all of it – is bold, daring and delicious.

    DRINK

    The drinks list is both thoughtful and innovative. There are twists on classic cocktails from fellow zero-waste enthusiast and mixology master Mr Lyan (with whom McMaster opened sustainable Hoxton restaurant Cub in 2017) and drinks made using botanical booze from Copenhagen distillery Empirical Spirits, bringing flavours such as pine, fig leaf and green coffee. Beers come straight from Crate brewery downstairs and the selection of organic biodynamic wines have been sourced from small, artisanal producers, the list conveniently split into different flavour types.

    VERDICT

    This is progressive food in both approach and taste, and it will leave you awestruck. Yes, it’s good for the planet – but it’s also just damn good. By Sonya Barber

    In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

    Address: Silo, The White Building, Unit 7 Queens Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN


    Telephone: +44 20 8533 3331


    Book online

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Bubala, Spitalfields

    Vegetarian Middle-Eastern small plates with some serious flavour

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: Bubala, 65 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6BD


    Telephone: +44 20 7392 2111

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Brother Marcus, Spitalfields

    A big-gun restaurant opening from a neighbourhood brunch favourite

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Pophams, London Fields

    Pophams is currently open for collection only

    A masterful patisserie has started serving an impressive evening pasta menu

    Wheat, wheat, wonderful wheat – delightfully versatile, eternally comforting and reliably satisfying. No one is showing off the glory of gluten right now like Popham’s bakery. Having opened a more spacious, café in Hackney on the former site of Rawduck (don’t worry, the original Islington Pophams is still open and there’s a branch in the Arcade Food Theatre, at Centrepoint right by Tottenham Court Road Tube), the bakery is making the most of its new-found space and sticking to what it knows best. Well, almost. By day, it serves unusual Viennoiserie pastries, including the legendary Marmite, cheese and spring onion swirl, but now each evening from Wednesday until Sunday it’s also dishing up a short but very sweet pasta menu. The brainchild of baker Phil King – who runs a pasta-based supper club in his home – the menu is a modern spin on traditional techniques, and the various tortellini, cappellacci and gnocchi are lovingly hand-crafted. As a restaurant, this feels a tad makeshift: most of the space here is given over to the actual baking and pasta making – rightly so – with a large open kitchen, a heap of flour sacks by the door and stacks of bread baskets. The only downside really though is that it’s already almost impossible to nab a spot at one of the four long tables.

    FOOD

    There are only 10 or so items on the menu and our advice is to order everything. It’s tempting to fill up on the fluffy homemade sourdough, served with a generous smear of balsamic butter, but we recommend you don’t over-carb too early. The pickled veg salad served with garlicky, salty bagna cauda is a great palate cleanser before you dive in to the main attraction. On our visit the ‘ham & pea soup’ was a pleasing clear minty broth with delicate bobbing pig-cheek tortellini. Then there was cappellacci dei briganti – satisfying little pointy hats mixed with fruity fresh tomatoes. Next up, rich ‘nduja scarpinocc’, the intense sweet-shaped parcels catching the broad beans on their cute dimples. The special was a savoury bigoli made with porcini paste mixed into the pasta dough and served with salted girolles. But the winner has to be the Taleggio cappelletti: small drums of salty cheese topped with sweet macerated grapes to cut through the richness. There are a couple of puddings for anyone who hasn’t fallen into a carb-induced coma: the yeasty semifreddo with a buttery web of croissant biscotti was delicious but pushed us over the edge and straight into a taxi to bed.

    In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

    DRINK

    The drinks menu is also brief and thoughtful. There are a couple of refreshing cocktails featuring local east London grapefruit spirit Stellacello and the rest is wine. Choose from a few carefully chosen reds and whites from small producers, or venture into the intriguing ‘others’ section, where you’ll find a tasty skin-contact bottle and a wildcard where the winemaker chucked in all the grapes she had to see what would happen (spoiler: it’s delicious).

    VERDICT

    Pasta is having a moment in London right now but this is some of the most inventive and exciting around. By Sonya Barber

    Address: Pophams Bakery, 197 Richmond Road, Hackney, London, E8 3NJ


    Book online

    In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Casa Fofó, Hackney Downs

    A laid-back neighbourhood spot with an Italian tilt from Pidgin’s former head chef

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: Casa Fofó, 158 Sandringham Road, London E8 2HS


    Website: casafofolondon.co.uk


    Telephone: +44 20 8062 2489

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Pidgin, London Fields

    There’s a new chef in the kitchen at this East London stalwart

    Prone to mass delusions, sudden reversals and inexplicable whims, the London restaurant scene can be a capricious thing, as restaurateurs James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy recently discovered when their second venture, Magpie in Mayfair, closed less than two years after it opened. And yet for all its flightiness, when the scene finds something it loves it holds it dear, staying stubbornly loyal. Take, for example, Pidgin, Ramsden and Herlihy’s first restaurant, which opened in 2015 and is tucked away on sleepy Wilton Way, round the back of Hackney Town Hall. We visited on a Wednesday and the tiny space was, as always, packed with devoted locals and those from further afield lured by Pidgin’s famed no-choice tasting menu, which has been ripped up and started again every week since the day they opened. And there have been wider changes, too. The previous head chef, Italian Adolfo De Cecco, has left to start out on his own and Greg Clarke, formerly of Cambridge’s Midsummer House and the Typing Room in Bethnal Green, is now the man at the helm. Will he be able to match the standards set in the past? Yes, it turns out, and then some.

    FOOD

    More technical and also, somehow, more classical than his predecessor’s, Clarke’s cooking still manages to adhere to the enduring principles of Pidgin: brilliant modern food, imaginatively realised and deeply considered, with nothing done for the sake of it: no smears, or piping or pointless foam. The menu comprises six courses proper, bookended by snacks and petit fours, which is no little bang for your buck at £49. Ideas fly in from everywhere and the flavours are consistently beyond the run of the mill: Tokyo turnip, Belper Knolle, rose tea (not, it should be noted, all in the same dish). As isn’t always the case with such menus, vegetarians are well catered for with proper alternatives to the meat and fish courses, and our highlights included a super-seasonal, beautiful bright-green bowl of English peas, beans and broad beans served raw with candied rhubarb and rhubarb dressing, and a deeply satisfying dish of wilted monk’s beard with the aforementioned Tokyo turnip and shiitake dashi. After a lovely light main of gnocchi and white asparagus (the meat-eaters were having chicken with wild garlic and foie gras), the pre-dessert, which included a Crozier Blue ice cream of extreme delicacy, was further evidence of a man in charge of his material.

    DRINK

    To start, either go for one of their sumptuous and seriously boozy barrel-aged Negronis, or the signature G&T: East London Liquor Company Batch #1 Gin with house tonic and bitters made on site. Among the short and always on-point wine list there’s a healthy 10 choices by the glass, including a delightful Hungarian Tokaji and a big and ballsy white Rioja. Two pudding courses make it practically obligatory to get in a glass of the Chilean Gewürztraminer – golden sweet and pretty much perfect. Although those cycling home should perhaps just stick to the delicate home-made Limoncello, which arrives as a courtesy with the petit fours.

    VERDICT

    The new chef has slotted right in and East London’s favourite neighbourhood restaurant Pidgin continues to walk the walk. By David Annand

    Address: Pidgin, 52 Wilton Way, London E8 1BG


    Telephone: +44 20 7254 8311


    Book online

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Peg, Hackney Central

    A wine bar for foodies from a trailblazing East London team

    With its roster of young-gun chef residencies, hugger-mugger wine bar P.Franco has quietly sent ripples – and then waves – through the London food scene since opening in a former Chinese takeaway in Clapton in 2014. After hosting the likes of Tim Spedding, ex-The Clove Club, and Anna Tobias, formerly of the River Café[, in the kitchen, the team behind it followed their success by rolling out Bright, in a high-ceilinged, industrial space near Broadway Market. The restaurant’s katsu-sando, discovered by founder Phil Bracey on a trip to Japan, led the capital’s craze for deep-fried sandwiches last year. And now that nod to the Far East has become a deeply reverential bow as they open a third outpost, Peg, deep in outlet-store-land near Hackney Central. While the dishes at P.Franco and Bright might encompass pasta, Chinese noodles and hearty plates such as Dexter beef and horseradish, at Peg they have kicked off with a menu that pins a flag firmly in Japanese cooking by focusing on yakitori-style grills.

    FOOD

    The tiny corner space is more wine bar than restaurant, with high stools, tabletops made of recycled yogurt pots and a straightforward choice of dishes to share. Served on paintbox-bright plates of sunshine yellow and blush pink, these include grills simply marked on a blackboard above the open kitchen as ‘thigh; wings; heart; liver; meat ball’ – different cuts of chicken, each with different toppings; the liver, for example, comes with grated horseradish. The only fish grill is a juicy hunk of wild trout served with the kick of a chilli and blood orange relish. It’s easy to eat your way through the short menu but highlights include ferments and pickles of daikon, turnip tops and carrots pickled in their own juices; fried tofu topped with seaweed; lightly fried chicken sprinkled with seven-spice and with a pickle-juice-spiked mayo to dunk it in; and an incredibly delicious salad of cabbage, sesame and mizuna (Japanese rocket, grown for Peg by a Japanese woman in South London). Things get a bit nostalgic with the single pudding: roasted-rice ice cream dusted with green-tea powder that tastes just like the milk you’d get at the end of your bowl of Sugar Puffs (as kids of the 1980s/90s will remember them, before they were branded Honey Monster Puffs).

    DRINK

    Low-intervention wines and small producers get top billing here. Wines by the glass have the interesting addition of an orange variety alongside whites, reds and sparkling. There’s also beer (Dancing Bear Lager), G&Ts from the East London Liquor Co, and tongue-tinglingly refreshing ginger amazake (fermented rice drink) for teetotallers. But really everyone is here for that all-natural wine, with the staff delivering a steady stream of bottles filled from taps at the back of the room.

    VERDICT

    This is somewhere to come and graze rather than gorge, and to sink a few bottles of biodynamic white from Burgundy. By Grainne McBride

    Address: Peg, 120 Morning Lane, London E9 6LH


    Telephone: +44 20 3441 8765


    Book online

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    The Duke of Richmond, Dalston

    Classic French dishes in an East London boozer

    In a previous, wacky life, the walls of this two-storey building on a corner of Hackney’s Queensbridge Road encased a giant urn that doubled as a table for four, a faux-mosaic floor and a sphinx with a fireplace tucked between its mighty paws. If Tutankhamun did restaurants… Since then, it has also been a shiny seafood brasserie/party gastropub (from the team who moved on to open Neptune at The Principal hotel in the West End). As the Duke of Richmond, it is under the steady hand of chef Tom Oldroyd who’s serving up French-style food using seasonal British ingredients. The laid-back space has the feel of a smart local pub with burgundy banquettes, sage-green-covered chairs, a distressed-look black-and-yellow wooden floor and a soundtrack that runs from Snoop to Stevie Wonder. The bar snacks might be more decadent than your average pork scratching and Scotch egg numbers (there’s crab in the chip butty, and the fries come with Béarnaise sauce) but the packets of Monster Munch hanging behind the counter reveal that this place doesn’t care too much for starch in its collar.


    FOOD

    Without a doubt, the hit starter is the crab soufflé, which every table seems to order at least one of (and for which the menu instructs you to allow a very precise 14 minutes). It arrives with a tiny jug of bisque to be poured on top and then melts in your mouth, leaving just the intensely pleasant seashore-y flavour of crab. In contrast, the salt cod with roasted peppers and rounds of sweet, pickled onions is as light and colourful as the crab is rich and beige. A main of plump, pink trout with samphire, dill and cockles swims in the briniest, buttery broth – all the better for dipping a side of skin-on chips in. There’s also a hearty eight-ounce dexter rib-eye that’s been grilled over chestnut and is served with seared bone marrow. Finish with a creamy iced-chocolate parfait with crunchy-yet-chewy homemade honeycomb and a sour kick of burlat cherries, or – what seems to be the dessert of the summer on many menus – boozy rum baba with chargrilled pineapple.


    DRINKS

    Join the locals drinking early-evening spritzes on the festoon-lit terrace – the cocktail list also includes a grapefruit vodka Collins and a punchy Side Car. Then choose from a nicely curated and very well-priced wine list (bottles start at £20), which has crowd pleasers such as Picpoul de Pinet and an organic Montepulciano. But while the sun still shines, your order has to be a crisp-as-you-like, blushing Comte de Provence rosé in a mandatory ice bucket.


    VERDICT

    A neighbourhood pub serving top-notch food that everyone will want in their neighbourhood.

    By Gráinne McBride


    Address: The Duke of Richmond, 316 Queensbridge Road, London E8 3NH


    Telephone: +44 20 7923 3990


    Website: thedukeofrichmond.com

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Cornerstone, Hackney Wick

    A contemporary East London fish restaurant from a young-gun chef

    Tom Brown has spent the last six years in the stable of Nathan Outlaw, whose eponymous London and Cornish restaurants both hold Michelin stars. Now Brown has opened a place of his own, funded with money left to him by his grandmother – without a backer in sight. Just two minutes from Hackney Wick, the space is light and bright, if a little hip-interiors predictable, with a handful of terracotta-potted succulents and pendant lights above the open kitchen. Somewhat more surprising though, that kitchen is right in the middle of the restaurant, so there’s not a bad seat in the house.

    FOOD

    There are only two things on the menu that don’t come straight from the sea: sourdough, which is delivered from Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall (along with the day’s catch from the county’s top suppliers) and served with coral butter made from dried and powdered scallop roes; and a sensational lamb Kiev. The latter is a deep-fried ball of slow-cooked meat teamed with pea purée and an umami anchovy. So, yes, you can’t avoid the fishiness – but then again, that’s what you’re here for. Cured bream comes with an intense lime pickle and coconut yogurt, potted shrimp are piled onto a warm (and well-buttered) crumpet, a piece of perfectly cooked pollock is topped with café de Paris hollandaise, and chopped cuttlefish is braised in cider and served with mini cubes of sharp apple and lentils. The stars of the show are the hand-dived scallops with a tomato dressing. The menu isn’t long, so you might as well order everything on it.

    DRINKS

    Start with a Cornerstone G&T, made with own-brand gin that’s been distilled with cloudy apple juice from Polgoon Orchard in Cornwall rather than water and served with apple, samphire and a herbal tonic. It’s light and fresh with a citrus kick. The short international wine list is heavy on organic and biodynamic bottles, so do take notes from the helpful sommeliers.

    VERDICT

    Nathan Outlaw’s brilliance with fish is displayed in every dish from his protégé – a London chef to watch.


    By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Cornerstone, 3 Prince Edward Rd, Hackney Wick, London E9 5LX


    Telephone: +44 20 8986 3922


    Website: cornerstonehackney.com

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Morito, Bethnal Green

    Mighty mezze masters go east to Hackney Road

    Moorish mezze spot Moro put Exmouth Market on the foodie map when it opened in 1997. More than that, it helped revolutionise the entire London restaurant scene with its North African and Spanish tapas, and simple style. Its second and next-door outpost, Morito, is Moro but with a more relaxed vibe, and now the third and latest opening has a hit of East London cool. On Hackney Road, Morito is minimal: polished concrete, artful neon tubes and white walls offset by the surfeit of natural light pouring in. The anchor is the huge central horseshoe bar, a beautiful blue-and-white marble affair that’s ideal for drop-ins, while friends, co-workers and families gather around conscientiously spaced tables in the comfortably loud, post-industrial space.

    FOOD

    In the kitchen is former Moro head chef Marianna Leivaditaki, the daughter of a Cretan fisherman, and an expert at hitting the bold-flavoured sweet spot that defines the Morito palate. Dishes are invigorated with staple spices (dukkah, sumac, paprika), and sprinkled with labneh, pomegranate, pistachio, pine nuts and dried fig. Highlights include gently fried aubergine sticks drizzled with feta and date molasses, and an unfussy stack of fried rabbit with rosemary and muscatel vinegar to balance the oil. Cured fish roe with rock samphire has a strong umami hit.

    DRINKS

    The signature Rebujito has summer on its mind, with a whirl of manzanilla, fizzy lemonade and mint making for extremely easy drinking. Or take a flight through a rainbow of sherries.

    By Ananda Pellerin

    Address: Morito, 195 Hackney Road, Hackney, London E2


    Telephone: +44 20 7613 0754


    Website: morito.co.uk

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    Jidori

    Yakitori joint in East London

    It was hot, then not, but Dalston is now back on our radar, with Jidori riding the foodie wave all the way to being one of the best Japanese restaurants in London. Owners Brett Redman (the Aussie chap behind raw-seafood bar The Richmond and no-frills Elliot’s in Borough Market) and Natalie Lee-Jo opened the izakaya (like a Japanese pub) on the site of an old bridalwear store. The space itself is a clean-lined, pastel-coloured refuge on Kingsland High Street with mouth-watering wafts of barbecued meat coming from the open grill behind the birch counter.

    FOOD

    Order to share. There are some knockout starters: tsukemono (an assortment of homemade pickles, including an umami bomb of enoki mushrooms and sweet-and-sour daikon radish), KFC (koji-fried chicken, that is, made with light and crispy fermented-rice and nori batter) and a twist on an English pub classic, katsu-curry Scotch egg. As for the yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), the kofte-like, chive-stuffed tsukune with a moreish egg-yolk-and-soy dip was the best of the poultry sticks. And top veggie dishes include deliciously charred chunks of aubergine with miso-butter glaze and yaki onigiri (griddled rice balls with pickled-plum flakes). There’s only one dessert on the menu: light, fluffy and subtly sweet ginger ice-cream drenched in oozy miso caramel (move over, salted caramel) and topped with crispy ribbons of sweet potato and black sesame seeds.

    DRINKS

    The brief but creative cocktail menu is Japanese influenced. Try the smooth Old Fashioned-style Taspo (malt whiskey, plum liqueur, green-tea syrup and orange and mandarin bitters) or minty-citrusy, gin-based sour She So Into You.

    By Roxy Mirshahi

    Address: Jidori, 89 Kingsland High Street, Hackney, London E8


    Telephone: +44 20 7686 5634


    Website: jidori.co.uk

  • The 13 best restaurants in Hackney

    The Laughing Heart, Cambridge Heath

    A fun-loving haunt for East End foodies

    Where do chefs from London’s hottest restaurants go to let off steam after a slammed night on the pass? Why, to this late-night joint in Hackney where they can debrief over a glass of natural wine and a plate of oysters with grapefruit and jalapeno. The Laughing Heart is the first solo venture from dapper Aussie Charlie Mellor (ex manager of nearby Brawn and Elliott’s in Borough Market). Inspired by the after-hours bars he’d visit with work mates when they’d clock off from Sydney’s restaurant scene, he wanted to open a London hangout offering excellent wine, high-quality cooking and plenty of friendly banter after the standard 11pm drinking-up time when a kebab is usually your only option. The name is taken from a Charles Bukowski poem Charlie heard at the funeral of a loved one; for him it signifies a celebration of life, and coming to his restaurant is very happy-making indeed.

    FOOD

    Kick off with great doorstops of the house sourdough slathered in brown-crab butter, and olives stuffed with Thai-seasoned pork, lap cheong sausage, and charcuterie trimmings. Next up are delicately presented plates of Highland fillet with wild garlic, and rib-sticking pappardelle al ragù, followed by crunchy-creamy ginger crème brûlée. After 11pm the menu changes, becoming more Chinese focused, and the spice spectrum is cranked up to the pleasant side of hot using flavours such as facing heaven chilli peppers in dishes of meat on a stick and scallops with xo — a seafood sauce with a kick.

    DRINKS

    Charlie likes to promise he has a wine for everyone, and with a wine list as long as a Bukowski novel you tend to believe him. It is a showcase for interesting small producers such as Italy’s organic Le Coste and Werlitsch from the Austria-Slovenia border. Locals nip in and grab a bottle from the wine shop in the basement or linger a little longer for a glass in the cave à manger.

    VERDICT

    Whether you skip along early for a candle-lit date-night supper or saunter in late with a thirsty crew, a visit to the Laughing Heart is pure poetry — and the most delicious nightcap in town.

    By Grainne McBride

    In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

    Like this? Now read:

    The best restaurants in London right now

    The best restaurants in London right now

The best Shoreditch restaurants

The best Shoreditch restaurants

Clerkenwell restaurants: the 8 best

The best Clerkenwell restaurants