Hackney still has that edgy feel. Its less all-out trendy than Shoreditch, and a big Victorian explorers beard is very much optional here. It’s diverse, hip, and still clinging on to a bit of its myriad roots. Landmarks like the Hackney Empire attract big name comedians anxious to cement their working cred, and corner shops run by Windrush generation locals still count yams, Malt drink and Ting amongst their best sellers.
In recent years another group has slipped into the mix, the unpretentious restaurant run by a bit of a name. It’s never too high end, more gastropub with an edge, and in keeping with the vibe of ethical/local/I want a burger but I want to feel good about it (and I can`t be seen going into a fast food place cos I can`t be bothered with ironic and I just signed a petition – arggh!)
I like a little bit of exploring myself, and the idea of visiting the old ticketing hall, built by the North London Railway Company at the end of Amhurst Rd in 1870 for a pint and a bit of hearty nosh was appealing. Adrian Watters is now the man in charge of the kitchen, and he has a long history going back to Harvey Nicks 5th floor, Soho House group and Electric Brasserie in Notting Hill. Readers of Grazia and the gossip columns will know that he also had a hand in Megan & Harrys wedding last year.
The kitchen is where the railways staff used to dispense tickets from, and the old counter forms the pass, which is at right angles to the long bar. Professor Green is in for a cleansing craft beer tonight. High ceilings, dropped industrial lights, long sharing tables – it has all the ingredients one needs for a fashionable local venue that also has an upstairs gig room. About that pint and food, let’s get stuck in, and kick off with a bit of a fry fest. To start, simple and unpretentious Courgettes and Squid. The courgettes are nothing like as delicate as Zucchini Fritti, being sliced 4 ways down their length to be the equivalent of very chunky chips. Rustic, but a bit unsubtle. The Squid rings I initially mistook for onion rings, they had that sort of batter. I think a bit more gastro and a bit less old style East End might be a benefit here.
On to a Gilt Head Bream, sautéed new potatoes, spinach and wild garlic pesto, which fully hit the mark – crispy skin, succulent flesh, spot on potatoes, lovely. I ordered another drink whilst we waited for my partners chicken to turn up, a small error by the front of house staff which the kitchen soon corrected. When it arrived it was ok rather than spectacular, but I think on reflection she rather regretted not ordering the chuck rib and bone marrow patty Oslo Burger. This is a place to hang out as much as eat, but being the driver and not wanting to hang out with an orange juice I opted for a sticky toffee pudding to share and a coffee, whilst my companion sunk another Rioja. Job done, John, let’s get back to my Drum (= place: Drum and Bass in rhyming slang) as Chas and Dave might say.
Oslo Hackney, 1A Amhurst Rd, just yards away from Hackney Central station