Hackney Wick is one of those areas people who live in London don't go to unless they actually live there. I mean, seriously, all there is there are warehouses and canals filled with shopping trolleys, surely there can be no reason to visit? At least that was my opinion until Nicola (she of Shedlikesfood fame) decided to organise a tour to prove that there was more to Hackney Wick than rats and pigeons. As the token South Londoner and a habitual hater of East London, she was taking a real chance inviting me along, but she was confident that the wares of Hackney Wick would be enough to convince me that there be good things amongst all these warehouses.
So, early start and the first stop was breakfast at The Counter Cafe
Who knew such a great little cafe existed in the middle of pretty much nowhere? Surrounded by those ever present warehouses, The Counter is an oasis amongst the urban wilderness. Upon arrival, we ordered a few coffees to perk us up from the early morning start. My order of a flat white was velvety smooth and had that slight natural sweetness synonymous with the Antipodean coffee I drank out in Melbourne. Great start.
We were then served mini portions of a few of the Counter Cafes classics. The first were masala scrambled eggs which were delicately spiced and just made me wish I had a bigger portion (that was until my brain kicked in and the realisation that eating a little at a time on a food tour was probably a sensible thing). For "dessert" we were served their signature french toast served with a sweet but slightly tart compote of berries and banana. I love french toast and I love berries and bananas. I loved this dish.
With all these complex carbs, I really needed to work off a few before we headed off towards our next destination. Luckily enough, there is a table tennis table out back to do just that and after a few rounds with Lex, we were ready to move onto our next destination, the Hackney Pearl.
Lunch at the Hackney Pearl
The short stroll along the canal to the Hackney Pearl was quite welcome, helping us further digest some more of the food we had just eaten, steeling us for the feast that the Hackney Pearl had prepared for us. It was pretty empty when we first arrived but slowly filled up throughout the time we were there until bursting point when we left a few hours later.
First drink of the day in hand (it was just about 12 at this stage), we started with a selection of starters including a veggie mezze (with some really good mushed up carrots, creamy slaw and a tzatziki of sorts) and a ball of chicken liver pate which was far too “livery” for my tastes, but seemed to go down well with the rest of the table.
The mains were the real star with a whole slow roast lamb shoulder and salsa verde. The lamb was unctuous and so tender that strands of meat were just dripping off. When presented with this grand lump of meat, we questioned how long it had been cooking, receiving the response “ A long time, I had to constantly wake up during the night to keep it moist”. A real labour of love, it was certainly appreciated.
The behemoth of an Eton Mess we had for dessert was perfectly nice, if a little heavy on the cream, not a qualm you often hear from me. A better balance of meringue and fruit would have been ideal, but even then, we all tucked in heartily. By the time we were done, it hardly looked like we had made a dent into the beast.
Upon completion, it was time for another meander. Doubling back on ourselves, we headed back over the bridge, down past the canal, straight past the Counter and onwards deep into warehouse territory. Before we knew it, we were standing outside Formans, a massive grey and salmon pink building belying it’s true nature. Famous for its smoked salmon and smoker (as well as holding the record for the worlds fastest pin-boned and carved side of smoked salmon), it also contains a restaurant and a pretty bewildering art gallery.
We made our way to the balcony which with its Astroturf and stunning view of the Olympic stadium would have been the perfect setting for the conclusion of our tour. Unfortunately, it started to spit which consequently turned into an almighty downpour and we were restricted to remaining indoors.
The selection of Formans cheeses and dessert wine were a wonderful finale, and it was an absolute miracle that I managed to get through so much cheese. I had another engagement to head to (yet more food!), but I left “The Wick” enlightened and realising that it was more than just warehouses, rats and smelly canals. It had been a brilliant day and I have only Swift to thank for sorting out. I'm sure I will be back to Wick soon!
The Counter Cafe - 4a Roach Rd, Hackney Wick, London E3 2PA
The Hackney Pearl - 11 Prince Edward Road, Hackney Wick E9 5LX
Forman and Fields - Stour Rd, Fish Island, London E3 2NT