Thanks to its prime position overlooking the canal at the bottom end of Broadway Market, this place attracts, as you might expect, plenty of Hackney hipsters. Much about the venue is fun – the studiedly casual decor with vintage wallpaper and Formica tables, the relaxed bar area and the prosecco on tap – but compared to other restaurants in the area, the kitchen (run by Hugo Warner, formerly of Benugo) doesn’t quite manage to distinguish itself.
The menu is concise, with strong Italian touches including hand-cut pastas. A starter of potted duck with piccalilli made up in generosity what it lacked in real moreishness; arancini with a good, deep-flavoured romesco sauce were rather sedate versions of what should be unctuous treats. The risotto of the day – nero with prawns – was perfectly unmemorable. Veal escalope was the only truly lip-smacking dish: dark, oily and crunchy.
The bill for all this was on the high side, although there are several very well-priced wines by the bottle. For people-watching and some decent dishes, the Market Café is fine – just don’t expect fireworks.