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E5 Bakehouse

Bars, London, Restaurants

Lunch at RawDuck – Hackney, London

RawDuck is the newly-opened Hackney sibling of Soho’s popular DuckSoup, owned by Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy.  The cafe and wine shop is a more low-key affair than DuckSoup, focusing on sandwiches, cakes and light bites rather than cooked meals.

What sets RawDuck apart is bringing together some of London’s best food producers under one roof – freshly-baked bread by E5 Bakehouse, Gelupo ice cream, Claire Ptak’s decadent Violet cakes and hand-carved wooden butter knives by Barn the Spoon.  Meats, cheeses and vegetables are supplied by Natoora, the home grocery delivery service that now has a store in Chiswick.

Inside, the cafe is minimal and airy with communal concrete tables, simple wooden benches, rustic wooden ceiling, screen prints and a decked terrace that was under construction during our visit.  The menu is written on a chalkboard wall and the expansive counter has a prep station, so you can see your food being freshly-prepared.

Like at Ducksoup, the people at Rawduck are also vinyl purists and there is a record player with the chosen album displayed (during our visit it was Crosby, Stills and Nash).

The 8 til noon menu features light breakfasts and baked good such as Hackney Buns, toasted brioche with salted dulce de leche, boiled hen’s egg with sourdough soldiers and avocado on rye toast.  The 12 noon menu is all about gourmet sandwiches and light dishes such as cured salmon and salted cheese with fennel.  In the evening, it’s the place to come for natural and bio-dynamic wine matched with small plates.

We visited on the second day of opening for lunch and were pleased to find that there is 30% off during the first week.  It has a calm, pleasant atmosphere and the staff are a charming, friendly bunch.

I ordered the Pretzel with San Daniele, Swiss cheese and mustard mayo (£4) and a glass of Lemon Aid (£2.50).  The soft, chewy E5 Bakehouse pretzel bun was filled with the finest, strongly flavoured San Daniele dry cure salami and smooth, thickly-sliced Swiss cheese.  The mustard mayo had a real kick and was generously slathered on both sides of the bun.

My home-made Lemon Aid was tangy and tart, with just enough sugar and served over ice.

Steven tried the ‘Dirty Bird’ sandwich with chilli roast chicken, iceberg and jalapeno mayo (£6.50).  The succulent, moist chicken was mixed with tasty mayo and thin slices of jalapeno, packed between slices of toasted sourdough with crispy Swiss cheese on top.  The garnish of extra jalapenos wasn’t really necessary – a scattering of potato chips or a small salad would work better.

Steven’s loose leaf Yorkshire Tea (£2) was beautifully presented in a pottery beaker with a tea infuser and carafe of milk.  The tea was excellent, however it was just too small and finished in around three gulps (yet there was far too much milk).  The cup was really pretty, so perhaps they could serve the tea separately in a decent-sized pot, ready to pour.

The Orange, almond and polenta cake (£3.75) looked too delicious to resist, as Violet cakes always do.  We ordered a slice to share and it was sweetly served on two plates, perfectly sliced down the middle.  The cake was dense and indulgent with tiny grains of crunchy polenta, sticky honey and slices of bitter blood orange on top.

RawDuck is a lovely addition to Hackney Central, run by happy people who care about quality ingredients and thoughtful presentation.  The price point for some items seems a little high for a neighbourhood cafe (£3.75 for a jasmine tea), making it more of an occasional treat.

I’m looking forward to seeing how RawDuck develops, as this is only the first week, and trying more from the tempting menu.

All photos by Chérie City 

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London, Restaurants

Sodo Pizza Café – Clapton, London

Living in Hackney, I have my favourite, reliable ‘go to’ places for Turkish, Vietnamese and a Full English, however, pizza has always been a tough one.  Pizza East and Firezza started high up on my list but are inconsistent and my local pizzeria on Broadway Market is ok but strangely always packed out.  So thank goodness for Sodo Pizza Café and its incredible sourdough pizza.

Sodo is a petite, no-reservations restaurant with exposed brick walls, interesting photography, low lighting and simple wood seating.  Sodo started as a pop up at E5 Bakehouse, the London Fields artisan bakery and cafe, and its success has led to a stand alone restaurant.

At 6.30pm, we were the first in the restaurant and were greeted warmly by the friendly, relaxed staff.  We were immediately served a carafe of chilled tap water and ordered a Home-made ginger ale (£2) each.  The ginger ale is potent, cloudy and naturally sweet – quite unlike the supermarket varieties.  If you fancy something stronger, there are wines from Borough Wine and local craft beers from Beavertown, The Kernel and London Fields Brewery.

We tried two different pizzas and shared, which was made easier by Sodo already cutting the pizzas into slices.  The Cured Meat – tomato, mozzarella, salami napoli, salami calabressi, prosciutto crudo and chilli (£9) was truly excellent.  The base is one of the best I’ve ever had – thin, crispy and modestly sized, with a springy texture inside the crust.  The plentiful covering of tomato sauce was rich-roasted and sweet and high quality mozzarella was scattered lightly, so the pizza didn’t become overly rich.

Sometimes the quality of the meat can bring down a good pizza, but this was like a charcuterie board on a pizza – flavoursome and delicious.  However, watch out for hidden slices of fresh green chilis, they are seriously hot.

Equally moreish was the Lorena – tomato, mozzarella, butternut squash, rosemary, feta and pine nuts (£7.75).  The roasted pieces of butternut were dense, sweet and nicely charred on the outside.

I’m not a fan of feta, so when I asked for the Lorena pizza without feta, I was kindly offered parmesan cheese as a substitute.  This was a great choice, as the strong cheese counter-balanced the sweetness of the butternut squash and the sprigs of fresh rosemary brought an aromatic flavour – absolute pizza perfection.

Dessert looked like it was going to be difficult, as I can’t drink coffee and both sweet options include espresso.  I mentioned this when asked if we wanted to order dessert and they kindly offered the Affogato (£3.50) without espresso (and knocked £1 off the price).  I find it hard to get excited about ice cream in a restaurant, but this was ice cream straight from heaven.  The home-made ice cream was so creamy and decadent, topped with chunks of cantucci biscuit and served in a cute espresso cup.  I was told that the dessert list will be extending very soon to include non-espresso treats

Sodo Pizza Café is perfect if you like a good quality, reasonably healthy pizza that satisfies without making you want to crash out afterwards.  Being greedy, I could have easily eaten a few more slices, as the pizza was just so tasty.  Simplicity is key at Sodo, but perhaps they might add a few Italian side dishes like arancini or rosemary roasted potatoes to complete the menu.

Best of all, if the restaurant is busy, or you just want lazy pizza at home, Sodo offers collection take-out.  Sodo Pizza Café is a real hidden gem and if you can make the trek across town to Clapton, you will be rewarded with some of the best pizza in London.

For more information, visit: www.sodopizza.co.uk

All photos by Chérie City

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London, Restaurants

Venetian Dishes and Cicchetti at Ombra

Going past Vyner Street on the bus every day, I noticed a few signs of activity in a disused building on the corner.  One day there were a few tables and chairs, then people sitting inside, then a paper sign decreeing the name Ombra, then a crowd of people eating and drinking in the mysterious new opening.

At first, I thought it was another east London pop up, but it turns out Ombra is a petite new restaurant serving up authentic Venetian dishes and cicchetti and is very much here for good.

Perched on the side of Regent’s Canal in the former Alma Enterprises contemporary art gallery (and before that, possibly a factory), Ombra looks more like an extension of the Vyner Street art spaces than a restaurant.

Inside, Ombra is filled with simple wooden second-hand furniture and glossy hot pink, blue and yellow tables by artist Russell Bamber and features an authentic Italian bar.  It feels like a graphic design studio, but with aperitifs!

The chalkboard features four or so daily specials and we were immediately tempted by Homemade Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce (£5), washed down with bottles of Diet Coke (£2).  Other traditional Venetian dishes included Burrata Pugliese, Ham and Melon and Broccoli and Potato Salad.

The set-up is informal and typically Italian – a sugar paper place mat with a fork and spoon (who on earth eats pasta with a knife?) were casually slung down before the food came out.  A nice touch was the decorative glass decanters of water and large continental beer glasses filled with napkins.

Head Chef and co-founder Andrea Michelon prepared our spaghetti and brought it out himself, greeting us with quick ‘buongiorno‘.  The spaghetti was cooked al dente and the sauce was made with slow-roasted tomatoes and garnished with fresh basil.

It was subtle and hearty with no acidity and the portion size was generous for a late-lunch.  I couldn’t help smothering it in freshly-grated parmesan cheese and every mouthful was a delight.

If you come to Ombra in the evening or just fancy a boozy afternoon, try a traditional Venetian spritz, a fine Italian wine or a digestif at the bar – their selection includes Aperol, Campari and Sailor Jerry’s.

Vegetables are sourced locally while artisan bread comes from the nearby E5 Bakehouse and meat is bought in from The Ginger Pig in Victoria Park.

Our bill came to just £15 for two, including a service charge, which is exceptionally reasonable for the quality and amount of spaghetti.  The menu changes daily, so I’m dying to go back and work my way through the dishes – as research into Venetian cuisine, of course!

Ombra, 1 Vyner Street, London, E2 9DG.

All photos by Cherie City.

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