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A permanent spot for the London Fields ‘shipping container restaurant’, now serving fashionable small plates in N16.
Please note, Dandy has now closed. Time Out Food editors, February 2018.
Stokey, N16. An area awash with excellent neighbourhood restaurants. So any new settler hoping to hitch their wagons and be noticed is certainly going to have their work cut out. Happily, the Dandy crew is up to the task. Ably led by two Aussies, they’re best known for serving marvellous coffee and modish plates out of a London Fields shipping container. Now they’re here, on the eastern, quieter side of Newington Green, in a building so unremarkable you’d never guess there was a restaurant inside. The space is roomy and utilitarian, with high ceilings and the character of a warehouse. Concrete floors, towering glass frontage. So far, so standard.
But then you look at the wine list. Because that’s right, I forgot to mention: Dandy also beats a rat-a-tat-tat for natural wines. You know, the intriguing – some say pongy – ones. If you’re new to these musty, tantalising flavours, the ones where the fermentation lingers on your tongue, just let the clued-up staff pick for you. And, ah yes, the cooking. It’s generally great. Small plates come piled high with pretty colours and uncommon ingredients. It’s not fussy or technical, but there’s a quiet ambition and creativity that you can’t help admire. One dish was so good I ordered it twice: a shallow bowl of hand-cut tartare, using lamb instead of beef. The thoughtfully seasoned, wobbly chunks of meat were an altar for a glistening egg yolk, plus several dried fronds of wild garlic. A dish so simple, yet beautiful, I don’t know why it’s not on menus more often.
There was a tumble of watercress with wood-roasted beets, their sweetness enhanced by a prodigal scattering of salt, set against a canvas of crushed, silken burrata. On top: the crunch of toasted pistachios, a hit of cumin. Later, spears of asparagus came deliciously charred, with smoked tomato – in itself a marvel – and moreish shards of coppa (a cured, salted Italian pork). There was even an ox tongue sandwich, packed with folds of thinly sliced, delicately flavoured meat and slivers of pickled onion. Finally, a stunner of a dessert – created on the hoof because they were out of the boring-sounding brownie – the kind you eat purposefully, with the smallest spoon you can get, rolling the flavours around your mouth as you try to decipher its components. First up was rhubarb compote with a zing of orange. Then: buttermilk sorbet, sweet and yoghurty. And what’s this? Ah yes, basil granita, singing, sotto voce, with perfume.
Dandy occasionally misses the mark (fried pork ribs had good flavour but a leathery texture; a dish of exotic wild leaves strewn with toasted peanuts proved better on paper than in practice), but when all is said and done, this is a fine little addition to the neighbourhood. Roll out the welcome wagons.
20 Newington Green
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