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Monday 9 February 2015

Ben Spalding at The Laundry - Original Sin

Wednesday 4th February - Today on the blog: How about some food followed by booze in East London? Because I never write about that.

The Laundry bar and restaurant in London Fields has pinned down popular chef Ben Spalding (Roganic, John Salt, Stripped Back) for a month long residency until 1st March.  Alongside exciting Daytime and Dinner A La Carte menus, there are Tasting Menus on Fridays & Saturdays (4 courses for £32, 7 courses for £49), and special Sunday Roasts.

We popped in early during the soft launch for a look at the evening menu.  There was a great buzz about the room, which quickly filled up with hungry Hackney locals. 

The kitchen is fully open, rather than just a hatch that you can see through, allowing Ben to pop out for a quick hello every now and then.  It would make a great site for a cooking workshop.

Before the starters arrived, we were treated to some sticky, fried Korean chicken pieces, and a generous portion of bread, with butter presented on a Himalayan salt board.  As at The Dairy and The Manor, a couple of amuse bouches and some serious sourdough (or other) are usually good signs of things to come.

Two super starters kept that trend going, though £9 was on the steep side for each.  

- Poached and roasted pink fir potatoes, apricot creme fraiche, sprout leaves, hotdog onions and "Holy Fuck" sauce 

- Fried and runny Burford Brown egg, toasted cashews, medjool dates, 14 month old kimchi, fennel, raw smoked honey 

Ben is known for his inventiveness (see No Rules), and there's plenty on show here.  He masterfully pulls it all together, despite an array of ingredients that could be at odds.  Both plates come highly recommended.

Main courses are an eclectic bunch, with the likes of Lamb Shoulder Ragu, Seaweed Ramen and Pork Belly with Veg all making an appearance.  We opted for two wildly different dishes:

- Black Leg Chicken Broth, Crispy Skin, Flaked Thigh & Breast, Sand Carrot String, and Rice Noodles

- Lasagne of Portland white crab, charred and sweetened Sicilian blood oranges, langoustine sauce flavoured with tarragon

The cutely presented lasagne was full of flavour and a great partner to zingy blood oranges, though we felt a little more pasta would have gone a long way.  The chicken ramen was something else. My lingering January cold was attacked on all fronts by a generous, comforting bowl of noodle soup, with a rich broth that Bone Daddies & Kanada-Ya would be proud of.  Don't miss it.

And to finish off a fun meal, we ordered two playful desserts:

- Warm, aerated malt loaf, crispy sweet pastry, creme fraiche ice cream, burnt caramel ice cream

- Victoria Sponge Cake - a different way...

Both puddings were served in almost liquid form, which worked better for the aerated malt loaf.  I'm not really a fan of Victoria Sponge Cake, so I'm not really sure what I was hoping for, but this wasn't it, especially for £9 (which may have changed by now).  The malt soup was an enjoyable little bowl with texture and colour coming from the crispy sweet pastry topping, but again £8 is a stretch. Hopefully some more solid desserts along the lines of Ben's Sweet Potato Brownie with Stem Ginger Icing, Frozen Cherry and Grated White Chocolate will fill out this section.

Warm, Aerated Malt Loaf, Crispy Sweet Pastry, Creme Fraiche and Burnt Caramel Ice Creams

Deconstructed Victoria Sponge Cake

There's a cracking wine list to pair with the food, and a strong cocktail list featuring the likes of Penicillin, Tequila Old Fashioned, and the inviting Balthazar (Rosemary infused Mezcal, Cynar, Antica Formula).

You've only got a few weeks to enjoy Ben's exciting and imaginative cooking, so stop reading this and book a table.


For post dinner drinks, we hopped on a bus to Stoke Newington for a second look at the magnificent Original Sin.  I briefly mentioned this Happiness Forgets sequel at the end of 2014 during it's quiet soft launch, but now it's time to shout about it.

Pouring Ribbons, Billy Sunday, Attaboy, Candelaria, Weather Up, Peg & Patriot, Black Hoof, and Dead Rabbit - budge up and make some room.

Alistair Burgess & co. have created one of London's most beautiful bars.  The never-ending, candlelit bar top (with always appreciated coat hooks) sits opposite a long row of cosy booths, encouraging friendly chat between all.  At one end of the room, a moodily lit pool table cries out to be photographed.  See more than a few attempts here - Facebook photo set.

N.B. Original Sin is closed on Mondays

Outstanding cocktails from some of London's finest bartenders will only set you back £7-8. Start with a refreshing Sea Fizz (Mezcal, Cachaca, Lemon, Agave, Salt, Mint and Soda), before getting boozy with a Red Hook (Rye Whiskey, Maraschino, Punt e Mes) or a Handy Dandy (Rye Whiskey, Apple Brandy, Lemon, Grenadine).

Then head over to the pool table with something from the £7 anti-G&T Highballs list.  You'll find me with a 6 Ball (Kamm & Sons, Laphroaig, Lemon, Ginger Ale) but I can also recommend the Grande Bellezza (Cynar, Manzanilla, Lemon, Cane Syrup topped with Mediterranean Tonic) and the Rattle Snake (Calvados, Cyder Vinegar, Lemon, Maple Syrup topped with Tonic).

But don't stop there.  Any bar worth its salt excels itself when you go off menu, and Tara Garnell (Bar Manager) was all over it on our visit.  First there was the moreish Manhattan twist with nutty Amontillado Sherry in place of Sweet Vermouth. A Clover Club-esque Pink Lady and a Calvados Old Fashioned followed, interspersed with some tasters of glorious Chinato Vergano Americano

After a week of fighting off a cold with Milk & Honey Penicillins, Tara delivered the finishing blow with a Jimador's Remedy - a twist on the Sam Ross classic with smoky mezcal and tequila replacing Islay whisky and scotch.

Original Sin is the real deal.  Never have I been more tempted to up sticks and move to Stoke Newington.  When The Good Egg arrives later this year, that might just do it.  In case my photos didn't do it justice, here are some truly magnificent shots from the supremely talented Addie Chinn:

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

Photo Credit : Addie Chinn

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