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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ribeira - Fairground - Rotorino

Sunday 13th April - My school friend Will relocated to Exeter a couple of years ago to study medicine at Peninsula so he has missed out on most of The List fun, but every now and then he rocks up for a big outing (you may remember one post that ended up with me wearing Johnny Depp's hat).  Sunday was one of those days...

It started with The Good Egg brunch at Cortado which I wrote about recently here, so I won't go into great detail.  Will was eager to go as he went to university with head chef Joel, and used to play in a jazz band with him back in the day.  Most of Southampton Uni seemed to be there when we visited, devouring Joel's Breakfast Burritos and Shakshuka which were top draw as usual.  They also had a pretty enticing special of Scrambled Eggs & Rhubarb on offer - "Our twist of a classic Syrian breakfast dish - lightly spiced, creamy scambled eggs topped with rhubarb, feta, pomegranates and zhoug with toasted za'atar sourdough."

Scrambled Eggs & Rhubarb at The Good Egg

Harry Tennant art exhibition at The Good Egg at Cortado
Another option for relaxed high quality food in the area is Breddos Tacos who have just set up shop in Trip Kitchen in Haggerston.  Their Mexican / American inspired weekend brunch looks particularly inspired.

Our next stop was The Baring, a great little community pub near Regent's Canal, for a nail (or arm, Luis?) biting 3-2 Liverpool win over Man City that kept Will in a good mood for the rest of the day.  Hackney Brewery American Pale Ale kept me pretty happy too.

After that we wandered along the canal with 4 hours to kill before a highly anticipated dinner at Rotorino at 7.15.  There are a few great al fresco spots in between De Beauvoir Road & Kingsland Road, and we spotted some space at Ribeira Bar & Bistro which relaunched on March 17th.  We powered through a crossword in the sunshine over a couple of Negra Modelos, watching the hipster cyclists flirt with the murky waters.  I could easily spend a whole day here, eating the likes of Ajo blancho, grapes & smoked garlic and Calamari, blood orange & Asian dressing, and nursing a few Smoking Tommy's (El Jimador blanco, agave, lime juice, Lagavulin).






If you can't find space at Ribeira, you have Arepa & Co. (Venezuelan café/bar with funky swinging chairs) and The Proud Archivist (gallery, bar, restaurant, events space) nearby.

We continued our slow approach to Rotorino by heading over to Fairground on Kingsland Road, "a 10 week pop-up spanning 3 floors of a disused office block in East London" full of "food, music & opinions".  

Fairground is the brainchild of Dom Cools-Lartigue, founder of the phenomenally popular Street Feast, so top street food & booze is a given, but you can also expect talks (from the likes of the English Disco Lovers), activities (e.g.. cocktail masterclasses, fruit carving) and music (Glasto Shangri-La warm up on the first weekend).

Fairground on Kingsland Road
Photo Credit : Thomas Bowles
Glastonbury Warm-Up at Fairground
Photo Credit : Thomas Bowles
Sunday is calmer than Saturday, and is free entry all day.  We wandered past Yum Jungle who had a Thai-spiced fried chicken station outside the building next to some table-tennis and foosball tables, and made our way to "The Grandaad Lounge" on the 2nd floor. Andy Oliver's Som Saa was in charge of nourishment here, alongside a bar doing beers (£5 Peronis not ideal) and £9 bottled cocktails.  In contrast to the drinks, Som Saa kept prices very low with all options £5 or lower.

The atmosphere was wonderfully chilled, with small groups sitting around chatting, crafting, and crosswording in a variety of mismatching chairs.  I would like to see some serious coffee & cakes too in future weeks. 

Som Saa at Fairground

The Grandaad Lounge at Som Saa
Level 3 ("The Fairground Diner") was taken over by Busaba Eathai (continuing the Songkran / Thai New Year theme), and it was really buzzing even late-afternoon.  Again the food was great value with all dishes at £6 or less, whilst cocktails here were £10.  I look forward to seeing who else they bring in each week, and I wonder whether the simple but striking décor will change each time too.  They have announced that Weekend 2 will include Yum Bun, Yum Jungle, Bhangra Burger & Smokestak (all Street Feast veterans) and I'm sure Dom has plenty more up his sleeve.

Fairground Diner

Busaba Eathai at Fairground

Busaba Eathai restaurant takover at Fairground Diner

Songkran tradition to sprinkle water over someone's shoulders

Will posing as usual
Keep an eye on Fairground's website & twitter to find out what is on each weekend and check opening times.  Saturday is free before 7pm, £5 7pm-9pm, and £7 after 9pm, whilst Sunday is free entry all day. Also keep checking Street Feast's twitter as they are apparently launching a new night market in South East London soon.

Time for Rotorino? Not quite. In fact, we made two more quick stops before dinner, starting with Duke's Brew & Que, the home of Beavertown beer and some damn fine BBQ food.  We enjoyed some Neck Oil Black Country Pale Ale this time around.

Beavertown Brewery ((so called because of the cockney name for the De Beauvoir area) are in the process of moving out to a massive 10,000 sq ft space in Tottenham Hale where there will be another bar and hopefully some Duke's food too.  Stay updated with their entertaining blog where you can also find out about their altercation with The Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne and the imminent arrival of their cans, starting with Gamma Ray.

Great Beavertown Brewery artwork from Nick Dwyer Illustrations
Beavertown Gamma Ray cans coming soon!
Our penultimate stop was The Fox, a cracking craft beer house with a sunny roof terrace and a beer vending machine (!).  The range of beers is always superb - we went for Re Hop, an excellent American Pale Ale from the Toccalmatto Brewery in Fidenza near Parma in Northern Italy.  With the likes of Brewfist and Birrificio coming through too, I think a beer trip to Italy might be on the cards.

Keg Board at Fox Craft Beer House including 3 Italian breweries
Craft Beer vending machine at The Fox E8
Which brings me finally to... DINNER! Apologies to those who had to scroll through all this way, if there are any of you left. Sister Jo, Sister Em, and Al (my wine spy) joined Will and I for a 4 course Italian feast at Rotorino, a new restaurant & wine bar in Haggerston from the dream team of Stevie Parle (Dock Kitchen), Ruth Spivey (Wine Car Boot / Street Vin) and Jonathan Downey (Milk & Honey / Street Feast).

As we sat down at our very cool, oval shaped central table, we were welcomed with ultra thin bread and glasses of prosecco, allowing us to relax and take in our surroundings.  The décor is classy, funky and suitably East London edgy all at the same time, reminding me of JD's Rotary Room in Old Street (now shut).

If you can't get a booking, there are plenty of seats for walk-ins including a long communal table which can also seat a large group of 26.  The front of the restaurant is home to Rotorino Vino, a wine & cocktail bar that you may want to visit before (and after) your meal.  Ruth was on the floor helping people to come to a boozy decision - if you ask nicely, she might reveal her secret wine list...

We went for bottles of Grecanico Caruso & Mimini 2012 from Sicily and Kalterersee Erste & Neue 2012 from Sudtirol Alto Adige.

Rotorino Vino wine list with an extensive Italian selection

Ruth Spivey's pocket wine list at Rotorino
I always appreciate a short cocktail list, even more so when prices range from £5-£9. Dom Kingsland with Scotch, Cocchi Americano and Benedictine sounds like my kinda drink.

Cocktail list at Rotorino
Food, wine & cocktails at Rotorino
Long communal table for walk ins at the front of Rotorino

Rotorino dining room
Dining booths at Rotorino
The bar at Rotorino
Now, the food.  The menu is split into First, Second & Third sections with Cheese & Sweet separate too. The prices are such that you'd have to be a fool (or just full) not to get a little bit of everything.

Standout plates from the first wave were the Pig's Head Terrine with Mustard Fruit (£3.50) and Chickpea Fritters & Sage Leaves with Anchovy Sauce (£3.50). Three pounds fifty!

Pig's Head Terrine w/ Mustard Fruit at Rotorino
We pushed on to the Secondi with 3 superb pasta dishes, all of which I wanted to instantly order again.  The Pea Gnudi with buffalo ricotta, peas, sage, parmesan and butter (£6.50) disappeared from Will's plate faster than you can say "Nudey!".  Pistachio Casarecce with crushed pistachios, basil, garlic and olive oil (£7.50/£11) is a must for all pesto lovers, and the Sausage Casarecce with slow-cooked sausage, red wine, chilli and breadcrumbs (£7/£11) was a spicy, crunchy plate of heaven.

Pea Gnudi - buffalo ricotta, peas, sage, parmesan & butter
Third courses included a beautifully cooked & seasoned Hanger Steak with Calabrian chilli sauce (£10!) and some Pork & Veal Meatballs with tomato sauce (£9.50) that were bursting with flavour.  The winner though was the Middle White Pork Chop marinated in myrtle, lemon peel and lemon leaf (£14.50) - a generous hunk of tasty meat that Al tried to keep all to himself.

Middle White Pork Chop marinated in myrtle, lemon peel and lemon leaf
Last but not least, we ordered the Cannoli with fennel seed, orange and pistachio (£3.50), Chocolate Cake with honeycomb, crushed pistachios and soured cream (£5), and the Hazelnut Ice Cream (£5). The Cannoli and the Chocolate Cake received the thumbs up from my fellow diners, whilst I was busy working my way through several scoops of delicious gelato covered in crunchy pieces of honeycomb.

Chocolate Cake with honeycomb, crushed pistachios and soured cream

Cannoli with fennel seed, orange and pistachio

Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina to go with dessert
Our time at Rotorino was rather special from start to finish, and I fear my Sunday evenings will now feel incomplete without it.  It's great to see a serious restaurant setting up camp in a pop-up friendly neighbourhood, and making fabulous food affordable for all.  You will be hard pushed to get wine and 4 courses of such high quality for around £30 for dinner elsewhere in London.  This could be a game-changer (I've always wanted to say that).

The epic day did end there, though there's still plenty more that I haven't made it to yet in the area including the new De Beauvoir Tavern cocktail bar and the Mussel Men pop-up in the old Dead Dolls Club space (there til May). 

I'll be back in the area again this Friday (April 18th), though further up the road in Dalston Junction for Kansas Smitty's Backyard BBQ & Single Launch - free entry all day for live music from a rather talented 8 piece jazz band, plus ribs and juleps, from 12pm-2am at Dalston Pond in Gillett Square.  I've also heard rumours of there being some Bourbon & Salted Caramel ice cream from Sorbitium, an Especial Brew from Hackney Brewery, plus Five Points & Kernel beers making an appearance too.  Trust me, you should not miss this chance to see London's tightest band play live for free.



P.S. I've finally started to get my Instagram on - check it out:

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