It’s a strange time to be in Hackney right now. The place that used to be an epicentre of cool is having to withstand a backlash that is in no way ironic. Talk of having reached ‘peak beard’ as well as articles discussing whether it is okay to hate hipsters. The barbarians are at the gate of the pop-up galleries, organic bike shops and poutine stalls, and they’re not interested in uploading anything to Instagram.
All of this anti-hipster sentiment is a product of the initial hipster phenomenon itself. For all things must pass and that which was cool must now be destroyed, so that the new cool may emerge and take its place. I think there’s something about this in the Bhagavad Gita but I can’t remember right now.
The Hackney Pearl could be almost the archetypal Dalston eatery. Its décor is sparse and chic with a clientele who are staring at their Macbook Pros or scribbling earnestly into notebooks. There is antique equipment used to make coffee and housemade chilli jam. If it seems too ready to dismiss as suffocatingly trendy, the food provided quickly changed my mind.
My companion started with the beetroot and vodka gravlax, dill, lime and crème fraiche, whilst I went for the stuffed courgette, red onion confit and currant dressing. What was impressive to see was the skill and expertise applied to both dishes. The gravlax was elegant and the combination of the dill accentuated the subtle flavours. The courgette was delicately prepared and was neatly rounded off by the currant dressing.
For main course, I went for the grilled onglet steak, chive and horseradish butter, chips and rocket vinaigrette. For those not in the know, onglet is similar to flank steak and is normally an excellent cut of meat. It was treated so here with the chive and horseradish, providing a wonderful compliment to the meat. My companion went for the roast cod, runner beans and walnut skordalia. My companion was very effusive about the cod but a little unsure over how the skordalia was meant to factor into the meal. It had a slightly overpowering effect to the fish.
We finished with the plum and almond frangipane and the apricot and roast almond tart with crème fraiche, both of which were accomplished. The Hackney Pearl is a pleasurable place to visit and at which to dine. The food is well thought out and it’s also worth checking out the house cocktails. It’s a little on the pricey side but not outrageously so, and the welcoming atmosphere means that even north London squares like myself are welcome.
The Hackney Pearl
11 Prince Edward Road
Tel: 020 8510 3605