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  • Restaurants
  • Hackney
  • price 2 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  1. Lagom
    Haydon Perrior
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  3. Lagom
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Wood-fired fun – and one almighty burger – at a cacophonous brewery taproom in Hackney.

The Hackney Church Brewing Company – a cavernous beer hall behind E9’s leviathan Tesco – has two key draws. First, £3.50 pints on a Thursday. Second, and less blearily, it’s home to Lagom: chef Elliot Cunningham’s rustic, smoke-wafted paean to his dual Brit/Scandi heritage, operating from an infernal little counter kitchen behind the bar proper. 

Blitzing stuff over wood-fire is the USP here: birchwood for the fragrant notes it imparts, and oak for its longer burn. Lagom means ‘just enough’ in Swedish. It’s a restrained remit that shows, vividly, that even the most unadorned ingredients can become majestic with a bit of alchemical char – and Cunningham and co are knocking out plates both artfully ascetic and bracingly delicious. True salve for London’s dreary winter wen.

First, ‘snacks’. A mound of charred black and swamp-green sprouts, doused in chilli prawn oil and sweet vinegar, was dowdy in form but a panoply in the mouth, all rollicking umami and light astringency. But a bowl of curry lamb stew and scotch bonnet sour cream, served with crisp sheaves of cassava for dipping, was truly sensational; a kind of Asian subcontinental riff on loaded nachos deserving of elegies.

Side-hustling property developers they may be, but the Topjaw automatons have helped cast Lagom’s burger into the upper echelons of the metro-patty hierarchy

Then, the star billing. Side-hustling property developers they may be, but the Topjaw automatons of social media infamy have helped cast Lagom’s house burger into the upper echelons of the metro-patty hierarchy, such is the reverence with which it’s mentioned by half the chefs they’ve cornered. And rightly so: a humming puck of 60/40 ratio of aged beef to fat, in a milk potato bun with a slick of mustardy mayo, Yank cheese and a vinegar slaw dressed – crucially for both zing and crunch – immediately before serving. It’s a thing of minimalist radiance.

A brief reprieve for some veg – a plateful of griddled king oyster mushrooms flecked with green sauce; a rustling mound of cornmeal-fried baby squash – before a smoked feather-blade bun. Heady with piquant garlic ranch dressing and given a visceral little kick with a few jalapenos, it was legions better than the workaday smoked bits being slapped out by London’s umpteen nu-school ‘pitmasters’, and surpassed even the burger.

The tonkatsu sauce criss-crossed across a paperback-sized pork katsu escalope was a tad cloying – and the closest thing to a misstep – but the chop was faultless, another drizzling of sesame garlic mayo deeply flavourful and a dusting of fermented katsuobushi tuna flakes liberal. A bowl of smoked Yukon Gold potatoes with creme fraiche and herring caviar was rendered merely very good purely by the calibre of the stuff around it, which is high praise. Finally, a fist-sized slab of tres leches cake – a proxy tiramisu, sans caffeine and booze – was the ideal finisher, cloud-light and, crucially, not smoked.

All comprehensively marvellous, then, and bolstered by some excellent sourcing: meat from Hogget & Boar or Turner & George, veg from the ubiquitous farmers’ co-op SHRUB, and fish from Broadway Market’s feted ‘monger Fin & Flounder.  

In any case, emboldened by cheap booze or no, this is ultra-deft and hitherto unheralded stuff that deserves the ratcheting plaudits. Go. Devour. Embrace the protein-purging night sweats and reek of sickly-sweet birch smoke for days. Lagom’s hot as they come. 

The vibe Dark, moody and very, very smokey at the dinky kitchen counter; bustling tap-room vibes if you nab a regular table.

The food Meticulously conceived and admirably simple flame-cooked plates as redolent of the Scandi wilds as they are of bijou east London.

The drink Beer, duh: kölsch, stout, sours, weisse, red, etc ad infinitum (plus a teeny, serviceable wine list).

Time Out tip The burger is the essential, evergreen go-to order – but the real treasure’s in the globally-minded dishes that meld salt, fat, sweet and sharp to totemic effect. 

Written by
Tom Howells


17 Bohemia Place
E9 6PB
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