Cafe Cecilia, London E8: ‘Hot but with a homespun edge’ – restaurant critique | Food

Cafe Cecilia in Hackney, east London, set to the examination the question that strangers usually talk to me, which is: “So, can you get a desk anyplace at any time?” The answer is elaborate, but, for shorthand, I normally reply: “Yes!”, when I really signify: “Usually certainly, but sometimes no, relying on myriad variables, including the ‘hotness’ of the establishment in dilemma, the pliability of its maître d’ and, of course, my have crafty although trying to inveigle my way in.”

For now, let’s concentrate on hotness, which has practically nothing to do with its suitability for the peri-menopausal, but somewhat the just about tangible fervour that surrounds sure new openings. Cafe Cecilia, which recently appeared just off Broadway Market on a reasonably charmless aspect road close to an old gasworks, is operate by Max Rocha, a chef with connections to the River Cafe and St John, and significant inbound links to the vogue field, with each his father and sister, John and Simone, becoming a great deal-loved designers. This sort of excitement inevitably qualified prospects to all 15 or so tables currently being booked up for weeks in advance, even though each lunchtime one more tempting array of social media reviews seep into the ether, showing us the likes of pig’s head, sage and potato pie, cuttlefish with orzo, pork braised in milk with contemporary coco beans, raspberry galette and Guinness by the can.

Cafe Cecilia’s agnolotti: ‘A balm-like plate of silky pasta filled with goat’s curd and squash, and swimming in a glossy, buttery sauce’.
Cafe Cecilia’s agnolotti: ‘A balm-like plate of silky pasta loaded with goat’s curd and squash, and swimming in a shiny, buttery sauce’.

I hope Cafe Cecilia can forgive me for pointing out its hotness, for the reason that in the previous I have uncovered that some eating places blanch at this elusive, sparkly tag. It’s a little bit like telling a major design how ruddy stunning they are, only to be greeted with a, “Well, of course, but I have pretty serious views about the Tibet Autonomous Region, far too.” Hot eating places do not want to be basically very hot and filled to the rafters with incredibly hot-restaurant chasers. No, they want to be highly regarded and loved for their skills, the provenance of their substances and their authentically affected recipes designed with modern day twists. They want to be very hot in meaningful approaches, not basically because Doris from the Emotional Help Squirrels did her newest Rolling Stone interview there.

Anyway, what is for specific is that “hot” restaurants this sort of as Cafe Cecilia do not have to have critics to appreciate them, so me sweeping in on the off-likelihood of a cost-free table (the a person dining places usually have up their sleeve just in scenario Barack Obama and his safety detail are passing by) was not likely to slash it. As an alternative, I booked just about six weeks in progress, then pondered who to bestow this magical handle on, prior to settling on my old friend Dave, who is not a sizzling-restaurant chaser at all. I identified him sitting down in a white, concretey home with basic brown tables and no tablecloths – in fact, no decor of observe in any way – perusing a checklist of pig’s head terrine, crisp fried sage leaves with anchovy, and deep-fried bread-and-butter pudding with chilly custard, nearly as if it had been just a ordinary home, and we have been not, in reality, at the rear of the velvet rope and living our best London life ideal there and then.

Cafe Cecilia’s pork and apricot terrine: ‘The piggiest slice of rough-and-ready paté I have witnessed in my lifetime.’
Cafe Cecilia’s pork and apricot terrine: ‘The piggiest slice of rough-and-all set paté I have witnessed in my lifetime.’

Certainly, it would make a wonderful denouement if Cafe Cecilia turned out to be a terrifically boring dud, but it is not. It’s a serene, self-effacing area with charming staff members and a menu that lets Rocha to lean on his Irish heritage by means of the likes of mussels steamed in cider and bacon, Guinness bread ice-product and barmbrack with a heap of freshly churned butter. Notions of Eire, and of St John, were alive in Rocha’s ham hock terrine, which was the piggiest slice of tough-and-ready paté I have witnessed in my life time. For the far more squeamish, I’d suggest a balm-like plate of silky agnolotti crammed with goat’s curd and Fellows Farm squash and swimming in a shiny, buttery sauce, which, at £13.50, is a much cry from River Cafe rates.

A whole plaice, grilled to crispness, but with smooth, white flesh, arrived festooned with steamed clams and a facet of pink fir potatoes, which are my incredibly favourite spud, or at the very least have been right up until previous year, when my makes an attempt to expand these fairly, nutty vessels of joy resulted in sad, stubby bullets and a lot of sulking. At Cafe Cecilia, they have deep-fried pink firs on the menu, as very well as peculiarly pleasant plates of deep-fried sage and anchovy fritti, which you may perhaps adore or loathe, but will undoubtedly in no way forget.

Cafe Cecilia’s bread and butter pudding
Cafe Cecilia’s bread and butter pudding with chilly custard.

Cafe Cecilia is not actually a cafe, even if its opening hrs until recently – quick breakfast sittings and lunchtimes, and only now beginning meal service on Fridays and Saturdays – give the spot a homespun edge, rather than the really feel of a new rumbling hospitality juggernaut. Even so, I have a perception that it’s definitely only just getting started out on its route to remaining 1 of London most major dining establishments. Hotness will come and goes, but truly quite great can last for at any time.

Cafe Cecilia Canal Put, 32 Andrews Highway, London E8, 020-3478 6726. Open lunch Weds-Sunlight, noon-3pm dinner Fri & Sat only, 6-9pm (final orders). From about £40 a head for a few courses, plus beverages and company.

Episode five of the 2nd sequence of Grace’s Ease and comfort Feeding on podcast is released on 23 November. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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