A tale of two meals, Hackney Road comes alive.

The advent of seriously decent options have meant I now travel to so many destinations that once would have been a sweat for me to get to, I have even journeyed South of the River recently, but it is the overland Orange Line that has opened the East End of London for me.
Hoxton station is a favourite, offering up, as it does, the myriad treasure of the Geffrye Museum, Columbia Road flower market, the Beagle Pub, Fabrique bakery and Sager and Wilde. Now there are two more reason to venture to Hackney Road: The Marksman pub and even newer Morito.
Within a week I journeyed back and forth to try them both: first up Morito.
I have an apartment in the old part of Malaga and the food was one of the reasons I was drawn to this Andalusian city. It has all the things one expects : Jamon, wonderful shellfish and fish, Manchego cheese, chorizo as well as a good amount of more delicately spiced Arab dishes such as fried aubergines served with sticky sweet molasses.
Loving these flavours I have eaten many times at the Exmouth Market Morito but, and I release this makes me look positively  geriatric, I find the seats uncomfortable if I want more than a quick snack. yes I do know that is exactly what tapas are designed for and indeed seats are a luxury at many Spanish tapas bars, but here the weather more often means a run for shelter from the rain than a leisurely paseao along a shaded path..
Getting to Hackney Road a little early we decided to preface our lunch with a sneaky midday Negroni and Sager and Wilde, I strongly recommend you do the same, and then to a veritable feast of dishes next door at Morito.

First a luscious dish of labnah, chillies and corn and how lovely is the salt, oil and spice set served with the hot bread?

Next up fried aubergine, cooked as skinny chips coated in cornmeal and drizzled with date molasses and  light as air, molten cheese fritters with thyme and Cretan honey. Both only gently sweet and both perfect.

We then had pulpo a la gallega, the only slightly dud dish for the octopus was a little too far on the wrong side of chewy but the perfect, deep fried rabbit pieces with rosemary and muscatel vinegar were little boney nuggets of flavour. We also ate quail with pomegranate as lovely and juicy as these tiny birds can be when only just cooked through. It was all lovely and I’m already booked to go back, because, joy of joys, this Morito takes reservations.
Morito 195 Hackney Rd, London E2 8JL

So on to supper at The Marksman This Victorian pub has  more than enough original features to maintain its character and has recently been fitted with a spacious, airy upstairs dining room which is where we sat. The food is billed as ” seasonal British produce, with a regularly changing menu” A mission statement thankfully short and  without hyperbole.

We ate simple food: a pie, some ham with mustard, fish, a tart but gosh was it good.Every mouthful sang with freshness and a sure hand in the kitchen. Goats curd, this years must serve fresh cheese, was served with raw peas in a pea juice and pea shoots, sublime. The ham and mustard had a shaved salad : simple, perfect.

The pie, and I could almost weep when I remember the pie, was chicken and chanterelle under a perfect golden crust, we ate it with chips, there were about four or so, on the plate if I recall, and a fight nearly broke out when everyone grabbed at them. Note to self: next time order more.

Bob’s brill was a generous chunk cooked perfectly and so full were we by then that we only just managed to share a slice of honey tart to follow.
The service was lovely and the staff turned the speaker above our table off when we asked for a little less sound.
Good food at good prices, served with grace. Job done.

The Marksman 254 Hackney Road, London, E2 7SJ

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