It’s back. And the food, says Tania Ballantine, is better than ever
WHAT IS IT?
A summer hangout that’s open on Fridays from 5pm and Saturdays from 2pm.
WHERE SHOULD YOU SIT?
Anyone loaded or skilled at organising group kitties (yeah, good luck with that) might want to pre-book a ten-person seating area for £200. The ones on the bijou fake-grass-carpeted rooftop are best because they come with a view and a wristband that lets you jump the one-in-one-out queue. There are hoi polloi seats (not many, mind) on the ground floor, in the main bar and in the dinky Ibiza-vibe rear section.
BEST TIME TO GO
If you’re all about the food, go on a Saturday at around 3pm. The stalls will have finished prepping, so they’ll have plenty of time to give you and your order all kinds of love. Arrive before 5.30pm, and you’re more likely to get a seat. Also, if the reservation-only booths haven’t been booked (it does happen), it’s first come, first served. Hate to wait? Buy an advance ticket. Yes, they cost £10, but you get a drink of your choice thrown in and you get to skip the queue. Who doesn’t love that?
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK
Don’t expect masterful mixology or craft beers. This is drink-from-a-plastic-cup territory. Still, the frozen margaritas (£8) from The Lazy Flamingo Bar are fun, plus there’s Singha beer and saké. Not sure what to eat? Here are the signature dishes from every stall, ranked.
1. Slow-roast lamb shawarma pitta at The Good Egg, £8.50
It’s the subtlest dish here. A soft pitta comes filled with melt-in-the-mouth, warmly spiced lamb, garlic yoghurt, a mild zhug (a Middle Eastern green chilli sauce) and crispy onions.
2. Veni-moo at Mac & Wild, £10
Taller than it is wide, this comprises two perfect patties – one lean venison, one juicy beef – layered with melted American-style cheese, caramelised onion and pickles in a soft but not too thick sesame bun. You can add bacon for £1.50, but it really doesn’t need it.
3. Mac ’n’ cheese croquettes at Nanny Bill’s, £5 for three
Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and just the right side of cheesy, these ‘croquettes’ – more like arancini – only need a tiny sprinkle of salt (rather than a dash of hot sauce). The chunky pea, mint and feta option is good too.
4. Jerk chicken at Rudie’s, £5
Sure, the sticky glaze is a touch on the syrupy side, but the fresh-from-the-grill smoky flavours are decent. And at only £5 for a no-carbs tray of skin-on chook (plus a spoonful of slaw), it’s the best value dish at this joint.
5. Get truff’d at The Slice Guys, £4
I wanted to love this, because the guys of the slice are so darn nice. But in spite of the good scent of truffle on this slice, the double whammy of dried-out shrooms and dryish crust was a let-down. Sorry, guys.
6. Signature hot at Wingmans £6
The wings here are cooked first then mixed in a sauce of your choice. It’s a pity, because if you scrape off the unpleasantly fiery-but-no-flavour ‘signature hot’ option, the meat underneath is actually okay.
Night Tales is at 1-2 Hepscott Rd. Hackney Wick Overground. £3 on the door.