Monday, 11 May 2015

The Richmond, Hackney

It's in a peculiar place, this one. A good 10 minute stretch of the legs from Dalston Junction, down a rather unremarkable road, The Richmond is striking. Turquoise paint and a striped awning declares it the restaurant it is, with glittering lights - otherwise I would have just wandered past. Inside, they've spent some money fitting it out nicely, with a bar for people to perch at, sipping cocktails, while couples can dine at banquettes, and larger tables get the advantage of natural light by the windows. 

The Richmond is the latest offering from Brett Redman of Elliot's, in Borough Market. Here, like there, the wine list is curated by Isabelle Legeron, forefront of the natural wine movement, and indeed she created RAW, the UK's largest artisan wine fair. This lady knows her shit. Me? Not so much, though I noted some orange wines on the menu. 

Alongside your more traditional menu of starters, mains and pud, there is a selection of raw items, as you might expect from somewhere declaring itself 'East London's first raw bar'. But in addition to this is also an oyster menu, and this night we had kumamotos, those small, sweet Japanese oysters, grown on our home shores of Essex. The 'hearty' from Ireland was the largest of the lot, and somewhat ungraceful to slurp out of the shell - I'm pretty sure my date looked askance - and the Menai rocks from Wales were my favourite, as sweet and mineral as they come. Alongside, a herbacious, a tart and a spicy were the proffered sauces. I usually stick with pure lemon.

Raw red Sicilian prawns aren't just the realm of Rex & Mariano; here, they are neutralised from any squeamishness, having been already relieved of their heads and shells. I was a little disappointed, for the intensity of flavour really is within the heads, but the sweet flesh of the prawns themselves are showcased here. The advertised new season olive oil and lemon seemed to be a little bit lacking, though we were able to lightly spritz them ourselves. For the £9 price tag here, you might find better value in Soho. 

Potentially dish of the evening though were more prawns, this time deep fried whole, which demanded that you eat them whole. The shells were soft but crisp, so that you could crunch through them entirely. A silken aioli and the wedge of lemon were perfect accompaniments; nice and generous with the mayo too, which often restaurants are not. 

Tuna tartare with aubergine, harissa and mint was a flavour sensation - each bite revealed something new. The heat of the harissa was tempered by the cooling silkiness of the smoky aubergine, and upon further nibble, the richness of cumin seed came through, along with a passing glance at preserved lemon. Very clever stuff. 

From such a strong and refined start, it seemed peculiar to order a burger, though I am aware Elliot's has often been recommended. Instead I went for the lamb, celeriac and tenderstem broccoli with anchovy. The meat was well cooked, and the components fitted together on the plate, but I felt the dish was lacking in something - perhaps the excitement of the starters? - it felt a little ...expected. 

I don't think it helped that my companion declared his main as one of the best fish dishes he'd had at a restaurant. Yes, the squid was perfectly cooked, the clams just opened and draped with fronds of wild garlic. The sauce was made from two of the finest sauce liquids known to kitchens - white wine and butter. I was grumpy. 

The Bibb lettuce salad was magic and it perked me back up. The leaves were separated from the heart of the lettuce, and dressed aggressively with a shallot vinaigrette. The thing that sets it apart though was that it was really cold; the most refreshing of salads. I think I ate the whole lot. 

The waiting staff, who were incredibly charming and knew exactly when they were needed and when they weren't - a talent, given the restaurant's infancy - talked me into dessert. My hazelnut cake with ice cream was just the right portion for someone who just wanted a taste of something sweet. 

Across the table, (the less said about the finger poking the better) the banana tart is never something I'd order, as I'm a bit picky about bananas - I like them on the green, slightly flavourless side - but it was incredible. Smooth, caramel and intensely banana-tasting without that over-ripeness that often comes with it, it was a perfectly sharp wedge. 

The Richmond must be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood; it certainly would be if it had sprung up in my own. It does that effortless cool thing effortlessly without being sniffy, and it makes it a very easy place to spend an evening - an atmosphere seemingly instilled by its co-owner, Margaret Crow. The strengths for me lay in the seafood, which seems obvious; I'm looking forward to seeing the menu expand to include the seafood platters, and the £1 Oyster Happy Hour from 6 - 7pm Monday to Friday. Not that there's any chance I could get across town in time for that, but dammit I'll try. 

The Richmond

316 Queensbridge Rd
London, E8 3NH

I dined as a guest of the restaurant. All my opinions are staunchly my own.

There's a tart recipe in my book, Chinatown Kitchen! It's not made with banana though. Definitely coconut. You can buy it HERE.


Andrea Petersen said...

Woweeeee, I could murder that tuna tartare and your lamb! Not too sure about the whole deep friend prawns (not a fan of soft shell crab) but I think I'd get on with this place just fine ;) Thanks for sharing! Lots of love, Andrea xxx

Helen said...

'Very cold salad' sounds so unappetising and yet I know exactly where you're coming from. I do have a very soft spot for a very simple green salad with a punch dressing. Wallop.