Ok, so there are babies everywhere. And the queues for brunch are getting a bit ridiculous. But Stoke Newington is, and probably always will be, one of London’s most magnetic areas. With its synagogues and cinemas, cocktail bars, chippies and charity shops, Stokey is home to a phenomenally diverse collection of people and places. Its food and drink scene is blossoming by the day, something you will notice strolling down Newington Church Street, the district’s culinary epicentre. It is rammed with enough cafes, restaurants, food stalls and artisanal coffee shops to keep locals happy and outsiders sitting on the Overground just that little bit longer.
Here are the places we are thoroughly Stoked about this month.
If, like us, you’ve become a self appointed natural wine buff in the space of about a month and a half, Rubedo will excite you. This royal blue wine bar offers seasonal cooking and ‘handmade’ wines without a sulphite in sight. The food menu changes frequently, stocked with Italian-influenced dishes that showcase organic, local produce. Lovely things like spelt pasta with asparagus, octopus with potatoes and beef tartare go hand in hand with a varying list of intriguing natural tipples.
35 Stoke Newington Church St
The Three Crowns
Gone are the days of watery gravy and perfectly spherical roast potatoes. Some of London’s best chefs can be found at work inside its pubs these days. And The Three Crowns is no exception. The Cornwall Project is in residence here, aimed at getting Cornwall’s finest, freshest farm produce into London kitchens daily. Chef Michael Harrison cooks up hearty dishes using the best possible ingredients, including fresh Cornish fish and high grade cuts of meat. Expect giant Sunday roasts with all the trimmings and lashings of carefully crafted gravy, aged beef burgers with apple and beetroot relish, and ‘catch of the day’ dishes like mackerel with gremolata and edible flowers. The terracotta tiled exterior, reclaimed furniture, copper light fixtures and catalogue of craft beers reel in first time visitors, but it is the food that keeps them coming back.
175 Stoke Newington High Street
Overlooking the leafy park, Newington Table is always full of locals gathered at the long, plant-filled communal table for all day dining and endless cups of Assembly coffee. The interior is a celebration of industrial style with concrete floors, exposed pipes and wires hanging in threads across the ceiling. It’s a bit of a mecca for freelancers, but is big enough to accommodate them alongside groups of friends and new mothers in denim dungarees. Breakfast includes brioche with honey butter and goat’s curd, granola with rhubarb and sourdough with black pudding. At lunchtime, a table in front of the bar is filled with colourful salads and comfort food like their signature pig’s head sausage roll, all made from scratch using good old local seasonal produce. An afternoon can be whiled away nibbling at fresh canelés and tarts made by pastry lord Pierre Schiffrine, and come dinnertime there are small plates to be shared (burrata with hazelnuts, turnip tops with anchovies, duck hearts with spiced aubergine) and large dishes like the ricotta gnudi with grapes and onion squash, the sea trout with monk’s beard or the braised shoulder of lamb for two.
20 Newington Green
Thoughtfully sourced coffee, artisanal tea and hearty brunches make Ester a local hotspot. But don’t let the simple interior fool you. The food showcases local produce in interesting twists on originals: coffee braised brisket with Jerusalem artichoke, fried eggs, preserved lemon, black radish and red onion; French toast with baked apples, labneh, lemon puree and whey caramel; Cheltenham beets with padron peppers, whipped feta, buckwheat and pickled red onion. Try the homemade ruby lemonade or hop on the ferment train with an elderflower drinking vinegar.
55 Kynaston Street
Green Room Café
It’s always nice to have a place to rest when you’re spending money you don’t have on cactuses. Found at the back of one of East London’s loveliest florists, this little café serves big English breakfasts, pancakes, eggs in all their guises and toast with house made preserves. The room is lit by a skylight, and the spacious courtyard is the perfect refuge on sunny afternoons.
113 Stoke Newington Church Street
If you’re in to Indian food, Rasa is probably already your second home. There are several in the area now dedicated to meat and fish, but the shocking pink N16 spot remains the most iconic and celebrated. The food is a love letter to the Keralan food Rasa’s owner grew up eating, with a vegetarian menu full of fiery curries: thick toor dal with garlic, tomatoes and green peppers; beetroot and spinach with roasted coconut and mustard seeds; beans, cauliflower and potatoes with ginger and fennel. A rainbow of Keralan bananas feature in stews, curries and dumplings. And no Rasa feast is complete without a tableful of extras, from a platter of pickles and silky medhu vadai dumplings with coconut chutney to plantains with peanut and ginger sauce, peppery lentil soup, salad with guava, avocado and Indian shallots, and steamy lemon rice.
55 Stoke Newington Church Street
There are some trends that are destined to stick around. ‘Burgers and beers’ is one of them. Stokey Bears is decorated like just about every other hip East London restaurant, all wooden booths, brick walls and the kind of tables you used to doodle that weird 3D ‘S’ on during maths classes. Their menu isn’t much more original, but the flavours are hard to ignore. The small selection of burgers are encased in perfect, glistening patties with pink, lightly charred beef made from grass fed Sussex cows. The ‘Grizzly Bear’ comes with oak smoked bacon, the ‘Koala Bear’ is a spiced bean burger with avocado, coriander and lime yogurt, and our beloved ‘Angry Bear’ has a fiery relish and an even fierier ‘#holyfuck’ sauce. (A hashtag we have yet to use) Sides include mac n’ cheese balls, chicken wings with Orange Buffalo wing sauce, chilli fries and a long list of craft beers. Basically, it’s the kind of place you want to go after a spinning class.
129 Stoke Newington High Street
Slip into the narrow, woody folds of this neighbourhood bar for all the smoke-infused, salt-rimmed, erotically-named cocktails you could dream of, by the creators of Happiness Forgets in Shoreditch. It’s right underneath Stokey Bears, which can only mean one glorious thing – drunk burgers.
129 Stoke Newington High Street
The deliciously authentic Il Bacio offers up traditional Italian fare like veal with Parma ham and sage, lamb with white wine and rosemary, Sardinian gnocchi with pecorino and chili, and a killer spaghetti puttanesca. But we can’t seem to get past their pizzas, which have plump crusts, thin bases and classic toppings like olives, rosemary and Sardinian salami, or asparagus, rocket, parmesan and a glug of good olive oil.
61 Stoke Newington High Street
The Good Egg
The weekend queues are inevitable. But so is absolutely delightful food. So stick with it.
The Good Egg serves food inspired by the owners’ childhoods, mixing flavours ‘from Tel Aviv to Montreal via London’. Like most good restaurants these days, the quartet behind it started off selling their brimming pitas at food markets and pop ups, before crowd funding their way into this permanent space in the heart of Stoke Newington. Their brunches are a thing of beauty, and the shakshuka is the star of the show, served with preserved lemon yogurt and toasted sourdough. It goes down a treat with a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice or, more likely, a stiff Bloody Mary. The soft, marbled babka (a bouncy, brioche-like cake), along with all of the other delicious sweet treats, is rustled up by ex-Ottolenghi baker Oded Mizrachi. The Jerusalem Breakfast features several small plates like homemade bagels with smoked fish, challah French toast with date syrup and eggs Rothko (brioche with egg cooked in the middle). Dinners are about comforting deli-style dishes like NYC-style cured whitefish salad with capers and marinated aubergine with tahini and pine nuts, sticky saddleback pork ribs and short rib pastrami with pickles and deli mustard.
93 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 OAS