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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Hot 4 U founder Matthew Scott grows up with this permanent London Fields project that's all about sustainable seafood and a sturdy commitment to seasonality

Papi’s journey from pandemic pop-up poster boys to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant of almost immediate repute has been action packed to say the least. Chef Matthew Scott first made his mark in the midst of post-lockdown chaos (Remember pub table service! Remember the rule of six! Remember booking for pints?!) under the Hot 4 U name, with a dedicated delivery service and playful residencies at esteemed Hackney boozers The Plough, Prince Arthur and The Haggerston. Here, the (excellent) food was as much about making you smirk as it was about making sure nobody went hungry. Hot 4 U was silly, fun and what people needed to cheer them up. Sure, the concepts of a whisky bone marrow luge, garum pom bears and builder’s tea basque cheesecake might have occasionally veered towards the irritating end of the stunt menu spectrum, but we chugged it down happily. It was either that or go back to weeping into our sourdough starter.

Such flirtation with banterism has been all but banished from Papi, a classy, crowdfunded joint on the fringes of London Fields. Our boy’s all grown up! Scott has left behind the more childish leanings of Hot 4 U in favour of regeneratively reared meat, sustainable seafood and a sturdy commitment to seasonality. In wingman position is Matthew Scott’s buddy Charlie Carr (of Wingnut Wines bar in nearby Netil Market), whose giddy enthusiasm for natural wines could make even the most hardened supermarket plonk drinker put down their glass of Casillero del Diablo in favour of something a little more funky. 

A gorgeous hunk of potato bread dolloped with fresh labneh that oozed obscenely down its sides was a truly crush-worthy carbohydrate. 

Lowkey disco bangers pipe out of the clean, pine dining room’s PA – so far, so sharing plates restaurant in Hackney – as half a dozen spring broth oysters appear on our bar perch. If it’s seasonality you’re after, this dish has it nailed, the bivalves bobbing away in a fresh dashi made of apple juice and sorrel. What’s listed on the one-sheet menu as merely ‘Garlic bread and cheese’ is far more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t your average floppy wedge, rather a gorgeous hunk of potato bread (with a whopping 10 day rise) dolloped with fresh labneh that oozed obscenely down its sides and topped with delicate garlic flowers. A truly crush-worthy carbohydrate. Smoked rabbit kielbasa sausage was magnificently meaty and proof Papi can do punchy flavours as well as delicate ones; our steamed pollock with sea herbs and peas was light and perfectly fragrant but nobody could ever accuse it of blowing their head off.

Though a burnt honey creme brulee’s story was sweet – the bees are from Victoria Park! local legends! – it lacked vibrancy. A deep-fried brown butter waffle with cheese ice cream and prunes fared much better – why nobody had yet thought a waffle could be improved by submerging it in hot fat is a shock I’m still struggling to come to terms with. It's also proof that Papi haven't totally ditched the sense of silliness that made Hot 4 U such a smash. 

The vibe Mid-youth Hackney hipsters sipping on natty wine and listening to Prince then munching on clever, unobtrusive food. We like. 

The food Great looking seasonal stuff on sharing plates. Lots of fish and seafood – think bream, pollock, clams and langoustine – as well as deeply British and foraging-friendly herbs such as nettle, buckthorn and sorrel. 

The drinks A star studded cast of natural wine served with charm, enthusiasm and knowledge. 

Time Out tip Play choose your own booze adventure and let Charlie Carr guide your wine journey. 

Leonie Cooper
Written by
Leonie Cooper


373 Mentmore Terrace
E8 3DQ
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