Friday, December 21, 2012

A rare pearl

The Hackney Pearl
 Like a lot of young people trying to find the path their lives will follow, our friend Alex has a job at a restaurant. The way she tells it, she walked into the place shortly after moving to the neighborhood, got a cup of coffee, and liked the place. When she found out they were hiring, she applied.

The Hackney Pearl is located in Hackney Wick, an East London neighborhood that is becoming a haven for artists and other alternative life-style folks looking for inexpensive digs. Owned by artist/chef James Morgan, it's a neighborhood joint where you can get a cup of tea and hang out - and it's also a place where Londoners in the know come for great food.

Table reserved (Click to"embiggen")
 We took the 388 bus from our place in Bethnal Green to the end of the line. I have to confess it's my first time riding one of London's quintessential double-decker buses, and we rode on the upper level. The Hackney Pearl is a short walk from the stop. When we arrived, we found our table specially reserved for us.

The Hackney Pearl is comfy, with an assortment of homey, odds-and-ends furnishings - tables and chairs you might find at a garage sale, shelves of old books and pleasant artifacts. The  kitchen is open for all to watch the cooks work their magic. The night we were there, the chef was Joe, whose intensity was reflected in the flavors on our plates.

We started with cocktails - [The Man I Love] had a Hendricks martini. For starters, Alex recommended three dishes - a warm salad of Jerusalem artichokes, watercress and wild mushrooms, below:

A game terrine served with a beetroot relish:

and cauliflower cream soup with toasted almonds:

They did not disappoint. I had the soup - it was delicious and creamy and delicately flavored, yet rich. With a green leafy salad, it could have served as an entire meal.

I took a bite of the terrine with the beetroot relish - the relish had a spicy tingle that went perfectly with the gamy meat. It was served with baked toasts.

Venison steak with beets
For main dishes, our party split along gender lines - the men were carnivores and the women went veggie. Our son had venison steak served with roasted beets. Rare, tender medallions of meat in a flavorful reduction sauce.

Onglet steak
[The Man I Love] had onglet steak with roasted sweet potatoes

Pie and kale
and Alex had parsnip, pumpkin and chestnut pie with kale. I had a taste of this, and it was truly delicious - the filling warm and creamy and the pastry flaky and buttery.

Rice salad
Our friend Sophie and I both opted for a salad course - Camargue red rice with apples, pomegranate seeds and feta cheese. I loved the nutty taste of the rice, and the way the little ruby arils popped beneath the teeth. It was a substantial salad, very filling, and beautiful on the table.

Max, Alex and Sophie
 After dinner, we decided to have some fun with the reserved sign - can you think of any other variations?

Click all photos to "embiggen"
 Red Verse is my favorite.

For dessert, we all shared a serving of the famous ginger loaf with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce. It was warm and moist and almost pudding-like, studded with little time-bombs of candied ginger that exploded in your mouth. So very good!

As we walked back through the neighborhood to the bus stop, the half-moon beamed down from a cloudy sky.

If you visit London, a trip to Hackney Wick is worth the effort - and you should make sure to visit the Hackney Pearl.


Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

This is just my kind of place...small and chef owned. The food looks amazing. We always feel so lucky when we stumble upon (or are happily directed to) a restaurant like this when we travel. Add it to the ever growing wish list!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

After drooling over the post about fish and chips, I'm not feeling adventurous enough for much of this food (though your descriptions and photos are amazing)... but what I really want to know now is if you can share a recipe for the ginger loaf with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce!