With East London creatives moving further east in search of cheaper rents and edgier surroundings, bars and eateries are slowly catching up. This new bar-restaurant in Hackney Wick offers a unique experience for the area.
Located in the centre of Hackney Wick, alongside a small row of convenience stores that serve the local community, The Hackney Pearl is easy to find once you've familiarised yourself with your surroundings. From the outside, you won't be able to miss it
as it's the only restaurant of its kind in the vicinity. Set behind a couple of outdoor tables, you'll find huge glass windows that wouldn't look out of place in a gallery and these help show the whole restaurant off to the outside world. Once inside, the decor has an almost
unfinished feel to it – there's open piping, retro tables and chairs, random rugs, huge wooden chalkboards displaying the food and drinks on offer, stacks of books on art-related topics (and a large collection of the National Geographic!) – but it isn't as cold
as you might expect and is quite cosy. The kitchen is on display so you can see what's being made and the bar area is large and packed with the different drinks on offer.
As more and more Shoreditch scenesters ditch Hoxton and head further east, Hackney Wick has risen as the place to be for alternative creative types to live in large converted warehouses and pay very cheap rents. The Hackney Pearl is full of these
people and is the venue is essentially designed to offer them an alternative to the greasy fast food places nearby. Despite welcoming an arty crowd, The Hackney Peal is a very unpretentious place and it has a relaxed feel to it. Staff in the venue are extremely
friendly – you really feel as if you're getting a personal service – and they're very passionate about their jobs, with a great knowledge on the wines and food. The jazz playing in the background definitely adds to the chilled out feel and they have a weekly
acoustic night on Wednesdays.
Food at the venue is high in quality compared to the local competition. The menu changes daily and loads of effort is put into preparing and presenting the dishes, so they look and taste delicious.
The parsnip and honey soup with toasted almonds (£4.20) is quite large for a starter but ideal if you're after a small meal. The soup is thick and creamy and very rich. The subtle honey undertones balance out the flavour but you may struggle to finish the
bowl, even if you're a big parsnip fan. The toasted almonds are perfectly cooked and the warm bread that accompanies the dish is delicious. The purple sprouting broccoli with vinaigrette (£6) is a generous portion, too. The dish is beautifully presented and
cooked so the broccoli is tender. There is just the right amount of sweet vinaigrette, which nicely complements the purple sprouting broccoli's unique creamy flavour. If you're after something to share as a starter, the vegetable mezze (£7.50) is the dish to
have. The platter contains hummus, spiced sweet potato, braised leek and coriander seed and a large basket of bread to scoop the dollops of dips up. The hummus has a good consistency – it is quite coarse – and has just the right amount of tahini, olive
oil and lemon juice to blend it together and give it a subtle taste without ruining the chickpea flavours. The spiced sweet potato is smooth and and the rich, sweet flavour of the mashed potato is perfectly complemented by the subtle spices. The braised
leek and coriander dip is also a great appetizer. The bread is soft and tears away nicely for dipping. There's loads of it, too.
For main courses, the spiced crusted chicken with mash and Balkan cabbage (12.50) is a good-sized portion that will satisfy you without making you feel uncomfortably full. The chicken leg is well grilled and crispy but still tender under the skin, so you
can easily pull it apart on your plate. The subtle spicing gives it a delicious flavour and it goes very well with the meat. It comes on a decent-sized bed of mash, which is smooth and creamy. The Balkan cabbage really gives this dish the edge. The
sour-tasting cabbage is shredded and coated with tasty vinaigrette. This dressing really balances out the flavours and turns a rather basic vegetable into something delicious.
There's a small selection of desserts on offer in the venue – and there's several cakes on the bar that you can enjoy with your coffee. The quince and apple crumble with custard (£4) is a scrumptious traditional British dessert dish. The hot pieces of fruit
work well together and literally melt in your mouth. It's slightly sweetened and the portion is large enough to share.
The wine list at The Hackney Pearl is enormous. There are around 15 reds, 15 whites, plus a few sparkling and dessert wines on offer. Expect to pay around £20 for a decent bottle of wine. You can even pick up a bottle to take home with you. The venue also
prides itself on the cocktails, which the staff put a lot of effort into preparing and making. They average around £7 and are very potent, so it's unlikely you'll want to drink loads of them.
For a remix of a classic choice, try the Moquito – a cross between a Mojito and a Daquiri. The staff make it exactly how it should be with the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and sharp, zesty flavours from the lime complementing the strong
kick of the rum. The Bloody Mary is another exceptionally well-made drink with a perfect balance of tomato juice and spices. It arrives with a stick of celery, which many bars leave out. If you're after a beer, the venue offers a good selection of bottles from
the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, which include Union. These cost around £3-£4 a bottle and beers will also be available on draught, too. For a cheaper choice, there's a Beer of the Week, such as San Miguel, which costs £2.50 a bottle.
The Last Word
With great wines, tasty food and a laid-back atmosphere, The Hackney Pearl is a much-needed addition to The Wick.