Combining Spanish and Italian influences with a seasonal modern British approach, there are inevitably small plates (from £4.50), larger mains (from around £13.50) and, at the weekend, all manner of foodie brunch choices.
And the duo behind it are impressive: Hackney resident Lee Glen, a former head chef at Soho House on both sides of the Atlantic, and Ian Goodman, who lives in Woodford and was the bar manager at the Oxo Tower for a whopping 19 years.
Yet we hadn’t actually popped by for dinner until last weekend, when we happened to be passing en route to taking a highspeed train to the coast (Deal, since you ask).
At 8pm East Village was quieter than expected for a Saturday evening, with Tina We Salute You busy but many of the cafes and bars closed. At least the upper end – which comprises a handful of restaurants overlooking the grassy knolls of the park – was buzzing with occupied alfresco tables.
Only having an hour spare before our train, and eschewing the industrial interior for a twilight outdoor perch, we plumped straight for what we’d heard was the best thing to order here: onglet, charred on the impressive-looking oven.
Why the rep? “Well, it’s a Bertha charcoal one from Tooting,” Ian told us when it opened. “We chose it for a number of reasons. As well as taste and flavour it’s incredibly versatile, allowing us to cook ingredients at a very high temperature, and is particularly good for steak. Plus it’s run off charcoal, so you get that barbecued smoky flavour.”He’s not wrong. Seared perfectly, carbonised and darkly edged on the outside, the meat was sliced handily into vivid red chunks. Crisp hand-cut slivers of salsify – a sort of brinier parsnip – upped the umami levels, while watercress yielded its peppery freshness, and bone marrow jus meaty depth.
If you’re peckish, grab a bowl of garlicky roast potatoes with rosemary, and some very buttery cabbage, too. But if you order two sides, as we did, it’s worth pointing out that the bill tops £20 a head – so this is a treat, rather than an everyday offer; without them the dish is £16.50.
Although – duh – it’s worth saying we’ve just discovered Darkhorse also operate a ‘sundowner’ menu from Tuesdays to Thursdays, which bags you two courses for £15.95, the onglet being one of them. So that’s your best bet to max out value.
But whatever price you pay, there’s no disputing the quality here. This has to be some of the tastiest, best value steak in the postcode – not to mention its east London surrounds.