Gripe all you want about east London’s current preponderance of boho bistros specialising in small plates and natural wines – but when it’s done right, it’s still a knockout formula. And Sune, just over the bridge from Broadway Market in Hackney, absolutely nails it.
Hospitality power couple Honey Spencer and Charlie Sims are the brains, marshalling experience from heavyweights of the London restaurant scene and beyond (Charlie spent a while as the manager of Noma in Copenhagen). And they’ve played a blinder in their choice of chef: Michael Robins, formerly of Pidgin up the road, doing the whole modern European/seasonal produce/small plates/cooking with fire thing.
The level of depth, detail, thought and skill in some of these dishes is honestly staggering, and they’re picture-pretty
That’s not unusual around here, but the quality of Sune’s dishes is. I’m not saying this lightly, but based on our visit, the quality of the food at Sune is a notch above what you’ll get at Café Cecilia across the canal – and that’s currently sitting at the top of Time Out’s big list of London’s best restaurants.
It’s sharing plates all the way here, obviously – though some of them are definitely big enough for a main course if you prefer to eat the old-fashioned way. We kicked off with snacks. First up: a twist on the Spanish gilda – piquant olives, anchovies and guindilla chillies – mounted on a potato cake that’s essentially a hash brown, the crunchy carbs perfectly rounding out the appetite-sharpening acidity of the quintessential Basque pintxo. Then a warm flatbread beautifully dotted with char marks, to dip in a horseradish cream topped with bursting trout roe and herb oil, the whole thing tasting like taramasalata with serious attitude.
The next dish was a stunner, one for the eyes as much as the belly: tender slices of raw sea bass sitting jauntily in a borscht-inspired, psychedelically green-and-purple beetroot and dill vinaigrette. After that, an olfactory smash: smoked eel caesar salad, tender chunks of fish lurking amid crisp, bitter, lightly-dressed, parmesan-scattered chicory. And then Sune’s signature dish of soft beef tartare on a croque monsieur, apparently inspired by the late-night snack hack of off-duty chefs at l’Express in Montreal. It’s a wild combination, taking supreme skill to balance the optimal temperatures of raw beef and melted cheese, and it was flawless.
The hits kept coming. Melty trout with a sweet-and-sour vermouth sauce, balanced superbly with smoked oyster and pickled sea veg. Impeccable cabbage with a buttery, smoky touch of citrus, soy and garlic. A dinky pear tarte tatin topped with a cute little rocher of vanilla sorbet. The only thing I wouldn’t order again a hundred times over was another Sune signature: grilled potatoes soaking in an emulsion of brown butter, creme fraiche, vinegar, egg yolk and about a tonne of black pepper.
The level of depth, detail, thought and skill in some of these dishes is honestly staggering, and they’re picture-pretty. It’s especially impressive that they’re coming out of the teeny kitchen (with a big charcoal grill) that you’ll spot on the left as you walk into Sune’s dinky, wedge-shaped, stylishly bottle-green dining room. The other thing you’ll see is a big ol’ bar with bottles right up to the ceiling. Co-owner Spencer is a sommelier who’s very serious about natural wines, and they also have some superb alcohol-free bottles in store. (Even if you are drinking, try a glass of not-wine from Muri Drinks in Denmark – our Passing Clouds was a riot of hops, hay, elderflower and honey-tasting woodruff.)
Although it opened in the autumn of 2023, this place will come alive in summer, with big windows that open all the way, a scattering of pavement tables, and even potential plans for a canalside sunset terrace. But don’t sleep on it – word gets about, and if there’s any justice, demand for food this good will be fierce. My advice: visit as Sune as you can.
The vibe Stylish, relaxed and dedicated to greatness.
The food Supreme snacks and high-calibre sharing plates – small and large.
The drink Natural wines all the way, plus original alcohol-free options and (why not?) a sake menu.
Time Out tip If it’s just the two of you, go for a seat at the window counter: it’s perfect for people-watching.