An adventurous DIY aesthetic mixes with just the right balance of twee-cool to conjure an exciting venue that's part cafe-restaurant, part arts space.
Not the typical institution for Hackney's Morning Lane, Railroad nevertheless slots into its environment well. A tidy looking property (and former barbershop), it sits on its own corner, penned in by windowed walls at ninety degrees. This is Hackney style through and through, from the fresh, whitewashed sign and its stenciled typography to the contemporary scene within. Opting for a small space seems to be the (affordable) trend in cafe restaurants right now, and Railroad fills what it has with a small collection of reclaimed furniture and makeshift benches fitted around a minuscule kitchen. Less is more here in terms of design, yet it still finds room for its own bookshelf bookshop and a performance space in the basement below.
Although sometimes it's easy to forget, when you're faced with the appearance of the endless new build flats and Tesco Metros, this area has more than its share of creativity. And Railroad will appeal to the dreamer in you with its anti-folk soundtrack, shelves of literature and spoken word open-mic nights, while the reality of the fine food and intense coffee offer the more simple pleasures. It’s young and friendly - with sartorially blessed customers and staff alike - and boasts an informality that's one of its best accomplishments.
The emphasis is on fresh seasonal produce, supported by its ever-changing menu. Weekday dishes rotate so whenever you pop in you’re sure to be rewarded with something interesting. Sunday lunchtimes can see very good Moroccan eggs (£6.20) that are cooked with red peppers and tomatoes and served with a large slice of bread. It's the kind of brunch that makes leaving the house worthwhile. Also worth a try when available is the Welsh rarebit and the Vietnamese sandwich, a delicious combination of spicy pork and pickled vegetables, with both coming in at a reasonable enough £4.50.
There is a small wine selection that starts at £3.50 a glass, along with a range of international lagers served by the bottle. The beautiful espresso machine serves coffee from Square Mile beans and there's a small range of teas and some juices.
The Final Word
Railroad is to be celebrated for its fine food and inspirational approach; it's an exciting - and popular - new addition to Hackney.