Thursday, 10 July 2014

Well Street Kitchen, Well Street E9, Hackney

It's amazing how areas so close to each other can have such different feels. Lower Clapton, a purposefully planned and laid out neighbourhood, has two big long shopping streets, and neat grids of well-kept Victorian terraces running off them. The area feels orderly and balanced.

A few hundred metres south and you get to Homerton, bounded and intersected by busy roads, largely re-built with estates from different decades following heavy shelling in the second world war, on top of a street plan that started as a series of ancient lanes. Homerton hasn't seen quite the breakneck 'yummification' that Clapton (North), Hackney Wick (East), Victoria Park Village (South) and London Fields (West) have had in recent years - perhaps helped/hindered (depending on your viewpoint) by its less immediate beauty.

Right in the middle of E9 is Well Street, an ancient market street, that's got pretty much everything you could want: an excellent (cheap) fruit and veg shop, kebabs, curries, jerk chicken, laundrette, a brilliant old school (not gentrified) butcher where I buy much of my meat, a big Mediterranean supermarket, old school charity shops and a Tesco Metro (this is where the founder of Tesco opened their first store). By virtue of the surrounding gyratory of rat-running one way streets, Well Street feels like an island oasis where folk can just get on with their business.

More recently a few new businesses have opened on the street. The Gun pub recently re-opened with a minimal facelift and a major overhaul on the drinks list. It's pretty much the perfect pub - the size of a generous London living room, a saloon vibe, with good seats at the bar, and all simple and original fixtures and features but for a Roald Dahl referencing neon sign reading "secret plans and clever tricks".

The other new business of note is Well Street Kitchen, which I visited last week. It's in the ground floor of a cute terraced cottage, and has a nice mini deli at the front, and running through to the back are tightly backed tables like in an old caff, where you can get breakfast, brunch and lunch through the week and over the weekend.

(image borrowed from Well Street Kitchen)

The menu is excellent - going a notch above the standard brunch fare: there's an antipodean flourish, with lots of avocado, chorizo, slow roast tomatoes, feta, as well as compose-your-own cooked breakfasts, artful granolas. There is also a changing menu of specials, demonstrating their commitment to making brunch awesome.

I had avocado and herbed feta on seeded toast with two poached eggs and slow roast tomatoes. It was epic. The seeded toast was better than sourdough with the flavours, with the seeds adding a nice earthiness, feta and avocado are natural bed fellows, and the tomatoes added something rich and sweet.

I also got to try a bit of one of their specials: a sticky, thick gammon steak, modernised with a pineapple salsa, and served with fried egg, topped with watercress, and with a generous portion of perfectly seasoned and textured thick cut fries.

The virgin mary packed a proper punch - very smoky, paprika flavours and a strong chilli hit. A small selection of local craft beers were also on sale, and of course I could have had a proper bloody mary with booze had I wanted.

Well Street Kitchen joins my Hackney brunch map, and on the esteemed but short list of places to get a proper fancy brunch with proper drinks and stuff. While the offer is pretty brunch, lunch and coffee/cake focused for now, they're starting to do the odd supper club or pop up in the evening - and the menus look interesting and the prices fair.

The place was rammed the Saturday morning we were there, and it will be interesting to see if any other new businesses join Well Street Kitchen and The Gun in opening on Well Street. Keep it slow guys, Well Street works nicely as it is.

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