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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A wine-centric restaurant in east London with a radical approach: big plates!

Seasonal Modern European cooking, an eclectic wine list, tasteful décor and a homely vibe… stop me if you’ve heard this one before?

In certain parts of east London, you can hardly nip to Tesco without passing at least one friendly oenophilic bistro (case in point: our recent review of Bambi). And honestly, it’d be churlish to complain about that: these places are independent businesses run and staffed by earnest, passionate people, and they’re usually really nice places to spend an evening. The only trouble is that in a crowded market, you’ve got to work miracles to stand out.

The MVPs were a veritably banging duck with poached cherries and beetroot and a lush chocolate tart with blackcurrant cream

A good location really helps. Eline is slotted into the side of a fairly soulless brick block off Hackney Road. God knows it’s hard to find a decent place to live in London these days, for restaurants as much as humans. But the lack of footfall and the echoey, single-aspect newbuildness of the space are a buzzkill from the start. That’s despite the immense pains taken in the dining room to turn Eline into the kind of cosy, stylish little bistro that everyone east of Camden wants in their neighbourhood: a bottle shop up one side, a cushion-strewn banquette down the other, and Scandi tables and chairs through the middle.

So how about the food? Here’s one definite plus: a (relatively) affordable, very approachable set menu with a choice from three starters, three mains and three desserts, plus snacks, cheese and a wine pairing as optional add-ons. And the plates – get this – are big. No sharing, no as-it-comes, ‘let me explain the concept behind our menu’ – just two or three decently-sized dishes of food per person, arriving one after the other. It says more about modern London dining than Eline itself that this feels like a small waft of fresh air.

Dish-wise, the founding duo wear their experience at Pophams bakery/pasta palace lightly. Though the seasonal menu and wine list change on the first Tuesday of every month, the MVPs on my visit were a veritably banging duck with poached cherries and beetroot – generously portioned and perfectly textured – and a lush chocolate tart with blackcurrant cream. Snacks were generously sized and top-notch too, with cheese and onion croquettes summoning mouth-memories of your best ever gastropub cheeseburger. But at least three other dishes we ordered, including the pasta main, were okay rather than essential – and with such a short menu, that felt like a bit of a problem.

On the booze side, there were no such let-ups. The wine pairing was decently priced, expertly paired no matter the dish, and a proper adventure. Who would have thought that the perfect partner for that chocolate tart would be a quinine-edged, vermouth-esque dessert wine from Piedmont? It just goes to show that there’s someone out there for everyone. Oh, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a wine list with a Swedish beer-wine-rhubarb hybrid by the glass – just sayin’.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Eline (once you’re through the door, anyway) and the ultra-friendly, switched-on staff deserve a special shout-out. Despite its copious upsides, for me it just misses out on the X-factor that makes for an essential restaurant. But honestly, don’t let that stop you taking it for a spin.

The vibe Chic, warm and welcoming, despite an unpromising setting.

The food Properly-sized seasonal dishes that are only a tiny bit hit-and-miss.

The drink Go for the wine pairing or explore the list – either way, you’re in for a mighty wine time.

Time Out tip Wine-lovers will get the most out of this place, but I was also tempted by the fruit-forward cocktails for under a tenner.

James Manning
Written by
James Manning


1C, Rosewood Building
Cremer St
E2 8GX
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