Some nights it feels like London's out to get you. On my gloomy, rain-soaked walk to Hackney Coterie, a double decker bus sped through a puddle, drenching me from head to toe. Awful. Happily, this luxurious but unpretentious restaurant is the kind of place that doesn't mind if you drip a bit of water on its polished concrete floors.
Step inside and you're hit with a refreshing sense of space, light and colour: this airy former warehouse has been livened up with primary-coloured paintings, exposed aluminium pipes and (very Hackney) pops of satsuma orange and sugar pink. In a previous incarnation, the site held wine bar and bistro L'Entrepot, and the commitment to vino remains. A dedicated, enthusiastic sommelier carves the air with her hands as she designates pairings from the wide-ranging list, from funky (in both senses) natural numbers to beautifully refined dessert wines.
It was a surreal, entirely grown-up taste experience.
Hackney Coterie is a collab between seasoned sommelier Kelvin McCabe and Anthony Lyon, who's also behind hyped seafood spot Lyon's in Crouch End. Here, the regularly-changing food offering is very much omnivorous, serving up well-honed Modern European dishes that are designed to share.
There's a distinct flavour palette in play here: earthy, verdant, salty, rich. The pizza fritta was a delicious puff of fried dough, topped with a thick green moss of herbs and finished with a fragrant tang of the sea. The crispy risotto cake was packed with zingy flavour too. It arrived as a pastel-tinted mound, coated in an acidic lime foam and studded with round pickle slices like a strange Mr Blobby head. But the highlight of the small plates was the delicious dish that celebrated the fungi family in all its mysterious, potentially sentient glory. The white hedgehog mushrooms had a squeaky, meaty quality that contrasted joyfully with the caramelised, crunchy chunks of hen of the woods. Fibrous cubes of celeriac added a welcome note of fragrance.
Each of these dishes was fairy-light and delicate in proportions, so what arrived next was a bit of a surprise: an epic chunk of lamb, served up rare, alongside an almost overwhelmingly rich accompanying lamb pie that was topped with buttery pastry.
I saved my energies for the puds. The grape parfait and goat's cheese mousse sandwich was like nothing I've ever eaten, mostly in a good way. Fried, wafer-thin slices of sourdough (recycled from the previous day) surrounded an icy layer of grape and a contrastingly unctuous layer of goat's cheese. It was a surreal, entirely grown-up taste experience.
Hackney Coterie opened last year, into a grim landscape for new restaurants. Its name suggests somewhere exclusive, for a select few Hackney-dwellers who know exactly how high to wear their beanies. But it feels chilled out and welcoming. Whether you want to plough through the whole menu or just sip a glass of wine on its terrace, this is a coterie you can be a part of.
The vibe An airy, colourful warehouse space with an equal emphasis on food and wine.
The food Modern European small plates with a focus on reducing waste.
The drink An expertly curated list of biodynamic and natural wines, plus cocktails with tipples made from creatively reused food waste.
Time Out tip Don’t be afraid to have a good chat with the resident sommelier to choose your wine adventure.