There’s a French revolution sweeping our restaurant scene – grand Parisian-style brasseries seem to be flavour of the season in London’s West End. But this little place on Stoke Newington Road is anything but grand; it’s like one of those casual and hip places you might find in a less touristy bit of Paris. It will be on a side street and full of locals; the proprietor is possibly a bit tipsy, and perhaps plays a guitar. You sit drinking tumblers of house wine until it closes at an indeterminate hour. This has never happened to me, but it’s what I imagined on a rainy night in Stokey, in this art-filled and singular new bistro.
There’s a choice of a £23 three-course set menu, limited in choice, enticing in description and restricted entirely to a single blackboard propped up helpfully next to your table. On it is listed the likes of pork confit terrine, or salad with leaves foraged from Hackney Marshes – it’s a wonder there’s any of Hackney Marshes left, defoliated as it is seemingly daily by a hunched-over brigade of trendy chefs.
A further menu of small plates lets you pick and choose – we chose ginger marinated salmon, a superior charcuterie plate and fennel and courgette ‘carpaccio’ with parmesan. They were all delightful, as was the carafe of house red, as is no doubt the many absinthes, which are best saved for a late-night visit (last orders are at midnight).
In keeping with the Parisian feel, downstairs is a dim little cabaret space, where at weekends slightly rude and no doubt very French acts perform in various states of dress. There’s nothing else like this in Stoke Newington, and not much else like it in London – we say ‘oui’.
Reviewed by Euan Ferguson