Please note, Poco is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, May 2017.
Hackney is London’s capital of negroni-drinking, small plate-eating, bike-curious street life. And Broadway Market is the place they come to park their bikes, drink and eat. Its hungry, discerning Saturday market crowd have drawn a bunch of laid-back little cafés, kiosks and restaurants to this urban village high street by London Fields. Eco-chef Tom Hunt gets double hipster points for seeding the London branch of his tasty Bristol restaurant, Poco, in a bicycle repair shop.
This wood and concrete box is the kind of ambient, stripped-back joint that makes wide-bottomed comfort lovers up sticks for Kent. Half the diners perch on high counters; knees, elbows and chat mingle in a gangly, garlicky swirl. But the tapas – tiny seasonal morsels with huge flavours – are absolutely worth having to BYO cushion for.
Hunt’s Bristolian shtick is local, ethical sourcing – a concept that’s easier to execute when the local nature scene is happy Cotswolds sheep, not drunk kids vaping by Regent’s Canal. It’s a familiar concept for London diners, and Poco’s supplier list includes many of the usual suspects, such as Neal’s Yard Dairy. It’s hospitable: you feel welcomed, rather than processed or performed to (the twin horrors of British service).
And the tapas menu is equally relaxed. Nicely butch Home Counties meat cuts, cooked slow and small, combine with hippie-ish, flakier vegetable plates. Blackface lamb neck, anchovies, caperberries and chard was perfect: meltingly sweet, piquantly bitter. English broad bean falafel, pickled turnip and broad bean purée was a bit of a slog, but simpler seasonal greens were divine. Merguez with labneh and cumin brought a welcome touch of warm south, and perfectly roughly textured sausages: like the memory of a perfect French childhood holiday, served piping hot in a skin.
One of the nicest things about Poco’s commitment to hospitality without showiness, is that the wine choice is appealing without being too weird to knock back: there are tempting choices from Turkey and elsewhere, many by the glass. Cocktails are pleasant but less impressive: even Lidl sells artisanal British spirits in these parts. After you’ve tucked in it all swirls together raucously, into a night that’s a hundred little bites of fun. Better for mate night than date night – but definitely worth leaving your bike at home for.