Monthly Archives: April 2009

F.Cooke’s pie and mash shop, Broadway Market

piemashcounterNOTE: Please read comments below from people who have visited recently. I haven’t been here for a few years, so this post is now out of date as far as restaurant reviews go. 

If you find yourself down at Broadway Market of a Saturday – filling your wicker basket (plastic bags are a major faux pas) with free-range eggs, lemon drizzle cake and smoked oysters, perhaps stopping for a flat white or a Vietnamese coffee, and then deliberating between a lunch of Creole prawns, African jollof rice, mushroom risotto or a couple of samosas – take a moment to consider the pie and mash shop, which has been there since 1900 and served the same food ever since. Here you can choose from eels – which are available hot or jellied for £2.50, or live at market prices – and beef or vegetarian pies, served with mashed spuds and liquor, which is a fresh parsley gravy made from the stock those eels were boiled up in.

Like the menu, the shop’s marble façade and ornate gold lettering above the door have not changed since it opened. Inside, a long metal counter runs down one side of the large canteen-like space, and customers take their time over newspapers and cups of tea at marble benches. Original yellow and blue tiles and stained glass brighten up the walls, sawdust is sprinkled over the floors, and a vat of eels steams away under the window. Continue reading

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Cheeky kebabs at Anatolya in Hackney

anatolyaWhat Mare Street lacks in superficial charm it more than makes up for in variety. From Hackney Empire to the Green Papaya, to a candle factory and the picturesque town square, not to mention that rarest of East London beasts, a cash point that doesn’t charge you to access your own money… it’s a unique street, and not a Starbucks in sight, either.

But the main reason I go to Mare Street is for a Turkish dinner at Anatolya. This restaurant – like the nearby library – seems busier than ever since the British economy keeled over. You can get takeaway, but it’s worth hanging around and eating in, especially in winter when the huge ocakbasi barbecue warms up the room.

The service is reliably good – it’s one of those restaurants where they know people are going to leave happy so they don’t panic at the sight of customers – and it’s especially good on Friday nights when it seems half of Hackney decides to go out for a cheeky kebab. And unlike some other restaurants/pubs around here the prices are honest and there’s no fashion police, so you get all types, colours and ages, from fashion students and artists to local families celebrating birthdays. 

Anyway, enough about the ambience, what about the food? Well, start with the lahmacun, or Turkish pizza, which comes with salad. Then go onto a kebab or grilled fish – the mackerel is really good, and popular, too, so it’s always fresh. You can get yogurtli adana, which is a kebab cooked in yogurt with pita and caramelised butter (the kind of thing you get at Moro, but without the three-week waiting list) and everything comes with salad and rice.

All the meat is cooked by one chef, just pictured above, who mans the ocakbasi with skill – his kebabs are always perfectly cooked. To drink there’s a good range of Turkish wines and Efe beer by the glass, or ayran yogurt drink or apple tea. I’ve never tried the desserts as I’m always too stuffed but they look good. And the bill (which is around twelve quid a head, including drinks) always comes with a couple of cubes of Turkish delight. Well, apart from last Friday night when only the icing sugar remained – as I said, this place is getting popular.

 253 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 3NS, Tel: 020 8986 2223

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A non-full-English Breakfast at the Dalston Lane Cafe

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Although, like every other meal, I adore breakfast, is it just me who finds the average ‘full English’ fry-up completely indigestible? Bacon is always a good thing, eggs are handy, but the whole extravaganza on one plate – tinned mushrooms, half a tomato (usually pallid & the texture of stone), oily sausages & fried bread… the slowly spreading puddle of fat it sits in… it’s just not appealing first thing in the morning. It’s even worse in the average bed & breakfast, where you get all of the above, plus clown ornaments, awkward morning chit-chat & surprise extras, like a single cat hair across the cut half of your grapefruit.

For this reason, I don’t much bother with going out for breakfast in London. And I’d certainly never given the Dalston Lane Café a second (or first) glance when I’d walked past it a hundred times on my way to Ridley Road market. Until I read about it at the dedicated breakfast site, London Review of Breakfasts. Their review wasn’t glowing, but I had a closer look at the menu the next time I passed, & noticed they served French toast with bacon & maple syrup. I was so there.

The French toast was, as hoped, divine. Crusty white bread bursting with egg, smoky bacon & a little jug of genuine maple syrup. Service is prompt, considering the crowds of hungover Shoreditch clubbers straining to read the menu through their sunglasses. We left light & cheerful, already talking about dinner, which made a pleasant change from the usual post-full-English torpor. Behind the unpromising facade lurks a gem of a caff. Bright, light, clean. Wi-fi, homemade cakes, & newspapers. And not a cat hair in sight.

 170c Dalston Lane, Hackney, E8 1NG

Tel: 020 7254 4704

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Sunday Roast at The Royal Inn on the Park

Two mealsimages are sacrosanct in England – the Sunday Roast and the Hungover Fry-up. This weekend I’ve had both, minus hangover. The Fry-Up was at Dalston Lane Cafe – which I will save for another review as it deserves a bit of space, and the Roast was at the Royal Inn on the Park, a beautiful old pub right on Victoria Park, which is looking particularly picturesque right now with all the daffodils and cherry blossoms out. 

It’s hard to trust restaurant review websites, as (I am guessing here) people only go to the trouble of letting rip if they have had a shocker, which may come down to short-staffing or a one-off bad night. 

But this place is good. I had the roast beef – two huge slices of rare sirloin beef (not that I can tell the difference, that’s just what it said on the menu) with four potatoes (I only noticed as other members of the party complained bitterly as they got just three) plus roast carrots, Yorkshire pudding, dark gravy and the best red cabbage I’ve ever eaten – I almost asked for the recipe. Oh, and a horseradish sauce which nearly burned my cornea off when I absentmindedly rubbed my eye. It was £13, which is more a restaurant than pub price, but it was beautifully cooked so worth it. Also on the menu were small roast chickens, roast pork and cod with mash, as well as things like pate and risotto and sticky toffee pudding. And reading the reviews now, as well as real ales they have pear cider on tap. I will be back. 

There’s a huge beer garden (read: stay away on hot weekends) and it’s kid and dog friendly so a good one for families. We took the adorable baby that was with us to a funfair afterwards – just like those spooky ones that you see in horror movies, the bright lights a bit garish in the misty English park – then went back to have another drink in the beer garden and settle the bill, which we’d forgotten to pay. Toilets are somewhat vile, which goes without saying in most pubs, but apart from that I can’t fault it.  

Tel: 020 898 5332

111 Lauriston Rd, London, E9 7HJ

Nearest tube: Mile End, or get the 277 bus from Highbury & Islington

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Fondue at Walluc, Shoreditch

tablewaluc

Redchurch Street used to be a grotty shortcut between Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street. Recently, though, it’s dusted itself off and had a facelift. There’s Terence Conran’s new shrine to good taste and fat wallets – Boundary Project – a textbook modern British cheffy empire – all vacuum-wrapped blackface lamb and Oxford marmalade and Welsh goat’s cheese. 

And just down the road from this is Walluc – one of those candlelit places you peer into while looking for an acceptably quiet bar and go: oooh that looks nice! while up ahead other members of the party get tetchy for their next pint. Continue reading

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Magnolia tree on Navarino Road, East London

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The protests at Bank – before the ruck

Couldn’t resist walking down to Liverpool Street to see the protests. The first sign of action was the police gathered outside the Royal Bank of Scotland. And about a million cameras flashing. 

p1000496Towards the Bank of England a small tent city had sprung up, with people setting up camp for the night – symbolic occupation of the Square Mile now that taxpayers own so much of it. It was peaceful here, like a music festival, especially with the spring sunshine. No sign of the alleged compost toilets. 

p1000518p1000528p1000529There were a few defiant suits taking in the protest, despite warnings from banks for their staff to dress down. No one was getting lynched though – all very civil. p1000531p1000535There were more police closer to Bank. Threadneedle Street was blocked off to both traffic and protesters. They might have been better off just leaving the traffic in place to keep people out, it’s usually gridlocked. p1000545p1000547I found another way in, although it was impossible to get close to the Bank of England – the crowds were too dense. You could feel the tension, especially in such narrow congested streets. There was a sense of things simmering – everyone was ready for something to happen but no one really knew what to expect. The bobbies were on high, high alert, but still staying friendly. p1000563This pair with their dog had the right idea – staying out of the main action. p1000566

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