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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  1. Shankeys (Shankeys)
  2. Shankeys (Shankeys)
  3. Shankeys (Shankeys)
  4. Shankeys (Shankeys)
  5. Shankeys (Shankeys)

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Friendly Indian-Irish fusion food in Hackney, as well as cocktails containing Kerrygold butter. Shankeys, you have our attention.

Let me introduce poitín (pronounced potcheen): an Irish moonshine commonly made using potatoes or barley that only started being produced legally in 1997. ‘It’s not typically very nice,’ says chef Sacha Henry, the solitary presence in the kitchen at Indian-Irish fusion restaurant Shankeys. But nice is definitely one word you could use to describe the two things it’s in here. They’re extremely nice, in fact.

First, there’s Spuds & Butter, a cocktail served in a coupe that looks like melted Kerrygold. It is exactly that, plus lime, salt, pepper and this mysterious poitín: a winning combination that makes for a creamy, peppy margarita-style drink. And second, there are the chaat potatoes. Gosh, the chaat potatoes. These crispy cubes are silky-smooth inside and come slathered in a turmeric and poitín butter, turning oily and lightly spicy and finding a surprisingly cooling foil in a green chilli chutney. Like every dish at the fantastic Shankeys, it’s a beautiful, colourful mess, served on floral crockery straight off Grandma’s dresser.

Like every dish at the fantastic Shankeys, it’s a beautiful, colourful mess, served on floral crockery straight off Grandma’s dresser.

The name may give ‘Irish pub in small European capital’, and keeping the façade of previous inhabitants Loafing (a bakery-café, apparently struggling on this stretch of Well Street) is pretty confusing. But get past all that and, courtesy of Sacha and smiley, front-of-house mixologist Eoghan, you’re in for treat after treat after treat.

Order the Irish rock oysters (£4.50 each), all the small plates (£6.50-8.50), then the Naga chicken (£24). The bivalves came topped with crispy anchovy and something called a ‘disco mignonette’, that single luscious slurp dancing on your tongue for the rest of the night. The delightfully named fish tea – cod in a cardamom and ginger broth, with bottarga shavings – was comfort in a bowl. And the stonking, sticky, shiny pile of chicken limbs, swimming in a honey sauce infused with fiery naga chilli? It’s definitely very unhealthy, but also incredibly moreish.

And there’s one dish that will practically guarantee you make a return trip: one disastrously small plate called the cauli cheese. It’s a paratha, stuffed with cheese and drizzled with cauliflower curry. Simple and served like a quesadilla, it’s not one to share. No way in hell. This thing is so good that divvying it up will create serious tension at the table.

Alongside all that, you should probably go for the cocktails (though the wine options looked pretty decent too). We liked the Dublin Sour, a long, easy drinker with Guinness, whiskey and egg white; and the Markievicz Mule, a refreshing palate cleanser with gin, lime and ginger. All are reasonably priced, at £9.50.

It’s quiet when we go, on a Wednesday evening, but the place has a warm atmosphere. Eoghan is the sort of guy who squats down or pulls up a chair to explain the menu. Sacha comes out of the kitchen – a former bookies’ office – to tell us what each dish is. Just as cheering are the framed quotes on the wall: ‘The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue,’ said James Joyce, apparently. And was he right? Well, let’s just say he’d probably never had anything with poitín in it in a former bakery in Hackney. My tongue has been thoroughly unbound.

The vibe A cosy and friendly neighbourhood spot that’s ideal for dinner à deux.

The food Punchy small plates that are simply too good to share. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to take your date here.

The drink Irish-themed cocktails, plus a short selection of wine and beer.

Time Out tip One of our fave pubs, The Gun, is just a few doors down. Y’know, if you fancy yet another drink afterwards.

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver


221 Well St
E9 6RG
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