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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
So, there might be babies everywhere and the queues for weekend brunch now border on ridiculous, but there is no denying that Stoke Newington is one of London’s most magnetic neighbourhoods. With its synagogues and cinemas, cocktail bars, chippies and charity shops, Stokey is home to a diverse collection of both people and places. The food and drink scene in particular is booming and you can’t help but notice it when taking a stroll down Newington Church Street, the area’s culinary epicentre. It’s rammed with enough cafés, restaurants and food stalls to keep entertain locals and ensure outsiders ride the overground in droves come the weekend.
So, here are the places we are thoroughly stoked about…
A celebration of all things Italian, we often find ourselves on autopilot walking us towards this glowing neighbourhood restaurant, which opened in 2016 to instant acclaim from Stokey locals. Wolf’s addictive charm comes down to thoughtfully cooked seasonal produce, Limoncello-wielding staff, strong cocktails (mixed with house-infused spirits) and a punchy Italian wine list. With a geometric tiled floor, mid-century furniture and a foliage-strung wall, it’s every inch the millennial sanctuary – but with a nonna-approved menu. Guests gather around the wood-panelled bar and marble-topped tables daily, tucking into plates like pork collar with fennel and charred radicchio or pumpkin arancini with sage, chilli and parmesan. But no meal here is complete without the perfect pappardelle; it arrives topped with a melty six-hour beef and porcini ragu (particularly delicious when washed with bottomless cocktails on Sunday). Wolf describe their menu as “food to be lingered over”. Which is great advice if, unlike us, you are actually capable of “lingering” over anything this good.
If (like us) you’ve become a self-appointed, natural-wine buff of late, Rubedo will get you excited. This royal-blue wine bar offers ‘handmade’ wines without a sulphite in sight, accompanied by an Italian-influenced menu stocked with seasonal produce. Lovely things like spelt pasta with asparagus, octopus with potatoes or beef tartare go nicely with the intriguing list of tipples.
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 fish and high-grade cuts. Expect giant Sunday roasts with all the trimmings, aged-beef burgers with apple and beetroot relish or catch of the day such as mackerel with gremolata and edible flowers. The terracotta-tiled exterior, reclaimed furniture, copper light fixtures and craft beer beckon first-time visitors, but it’s the food that keeps them coming back.
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 (concrete floors, exposed pipes, hanging wires) and it’s a a bit of a mecca for freelancers, though big enough to accommodate them alongside groups of friends and new mothers in denim dungarees. Breakfast might be brioche with honey butter and goat’s curd or sourdough and black pud. Come lunch, a table groans under colourful salads or go comfort food such as their signature pig’s head sausage. Pop in for a tea of fresh tarts from pastry lord Pierre Schiffrine, while small plates are order of the day at dinner (think burrata with hazelnuts, turnip tops with anchovies, duck hearts with spiced aubergine).
Don’t let the simple interior fool you. Thoughtfully sourced coffee, artisan tea and hearty brunches make Ester a Stokey hotspot. The menu showcases local produce with interesting twists on classics: 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 – need we say more? Slurp on homemade ruby lemonade or hop on the fermented train with an elderflower vinegar concoction.
Tucked away 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 nostalgic homemade preserves. The room is lit by a skylight and the spacious courtyard provides the perfect refuge on sunny afternoons. A well-kept Stoke Newington’s secret, it’s also a good place to sit with your laptop.
If you’re into Indian, make Rasa your second home. There are now several outposts serving meat and fish but the veggie, shocking pink N16 spot remains the most iconic. The menu is a love letter to Kerala (where the owner grew up) and is packed with 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. No feast is complete without a tableful of sides, from pickle platters and silky medhu vadai dumplings with coconut chutney to plantains with peanut and ginger sauce or guava and avocado salad.
Taking inspiration from the owners’ international childhoods, this pop-up-gone-permanent mixes flavours ‘from Tel Aviv to Montreal via London’ (yes, really) and is a total delight. For brunch, it’s got to be shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce with plenty of chilli), served on sourdough with preserved-lemon yoghurt, though Jerusalem breakfast is also a winner thanks smoked-fish bagels, challah French toast with date syrup and eggs rothko (brioche with an egg cooked inside). Other sweet treats are rustled up by ex-Ottolenghi chef Oded Mizrachi, while comforting NYC-style deli dinner plates include cured whitefish salad with capers, marinated aubergine with tahini and pine nuts or sticky saddleback pork ribs. The weekend queues are worth it.
Decorated like most hip food joints – wooden booths, exposed brickware and tables reminiscent of those you used to doodle on at school – the ‘burgers and beer’ menu may appear unoriginal, but they really nail it. Perfectly pink, lightly charred patties are dressed up so the ‘grizzly bear’ comes with sweet, oak-smoked bacon, while the koala is a spiced-bean burger stacked with avocado, coriander and lime yoghurt. Our beloved ‘angry bear’ arrives with lashings of super-hot relish and even hotter ‘#holyfuck’ sauce (proceed with caution if ordering on a first date). Sides include heavenly mac ‘n’ cheese balls, chicken wings with buffalo sauce and chilli fries, while there’s a long list of craft beers. Basically, it’s the quickest way to undo all your hard work at spinning class.
The deliciously authentic Il Bacio offers up traditional Italian fare in laid-back surroundings. Get stuck into veal with parma ham and sage, Sardinian gnocchi with pecorino and chilli or a killer spaghetti puttanesca. Having said that, we can’t seem to get past their pizza – plump crusts, thin bases and classic toppings such as olives, salami and asparagus, finished with a good glug of olive oil.
Give into Thursday night temptation and head to this sleek, subterranean cocktail bar from the team behind Shoreditch’s Happiness Forgets. Descend into the moody, wood-panelled lounge (complete with a top-notch pool table) for all the smoke-infused, salt-rimmed, erotically named cocktails you could ever dream of. The best bit? It’s right underneath Stokey Bears, which only means one glorious thing – drunk-food burgers. Adam and Eve would be proud.
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