Has anyone else noticed that Mare Street has gotten all trendy and village-y. A bit like the Stoke Newington end of Kingsland Road. I’ve spent years travelling down Mare Street onto somewhere else and have generally always considered it a right shithole. Then, Hackney Picturehouse opened a year or so ago, and it got a bit better. But you still couldn’t get a 2-4-1 Pizza Express anywhere near on an Orange Wednesday.
But more recently, there has been a spat of new restaurants opening up along this grotty thoroughfare and the truth is, they’re quite good. And then, when I was walking down to one of said restaurants from Hackney Central – The Advisory, which is opposite that massive Iceland on the corner – I noticed that, actually, Mare Street was quite nice. Hardly anyone tried to stab me. There were quite a lot of people eating in quite a lot of the restaurants – even in all of the Vietnamese’s, which usually look dead empty. The weather was nice, but not too nice, and it was a Thursday, and generally everyone looked like they were in a good mood. It was all very pleasant. I was surprised.
I was about twenty minutes early to meet the boy so I sat right in the window and got a very reasonably priced bottle of beer – Tsingtao – for £2, bought to me by a very good looking waitress with a very trendy haircut. She was all smiley so I didn’t get too annoyed by her good looks. I did some writing on the ol’ iPad while I was waiting and didn’t feel in imminent danger of being mugged, which was a new experience for me in East London.
The Advisory hasn’t got a website, but they handily posted their menu here. For those not in the know, it’s another trendy American influenced burger joint (I do eat more than just burgers, promise. I also eat a lot of porridge). When the boy arrived, any attempt to limit ourselves to a normal amount of food for two went out the window. I agreed to only pay for a third but demanded to eat half, like any good girlfriend. We got the cheeseburger, sausage dog, Poutine, onion rings, and then he ordered the shrimp Po’boy from the specials board as well. Oh God, we sound so fat.
The dishes were dirt cheap, ranging from £5.50 to £2.50 each, and arrived in super quick time – there were only a few tables full but we did get there early-ish, 7.30pm. It all looked pretty sexy, as you can tell from the pictures. First up – the cheeseburger. Now I could tell straight away it wasn’t going to get top marks because – they used cheddar. Argh, this is such a bugbear. Cheddar SUCKS in cheeseburgers, unless you’re having a barbeque at someone’s house and they don’t know any better. But a place like The Advisory SHOULD know better. Secondly, the bun was dry. I know that sounds weird, but I think they dunked the sauce on top of the patty and then covered it in lettuce and – hence, paper dry bun.
Thirdly, the patty was overcooked. Now this is difficult to explain, because I took a picture of the cross-section of the burger (time to get fucking serious) and the meat looks really good and pink. But it actually wasn’t. It was eveeeeer so slightly over. They meant for it to be pink, but they had been cautious, and kept it in that teeny bit longer, and bam, overcooked patty.
Next up the sausage dog. The menu says ‘Gloucester old spot sausage in a brioche bun with crispy onions’. That’s bang on. This was a sausage n mash sausage. A hungover sausage slathered in ketchup between white bread – a toad in the hole kind of sausage. It was good, it was British, it had flecks of herbs and spices throughout. But it had no fucking right sitting in that bun. It was an imposter sausage. A civilized Sunday sausage – not a night out, I’m pissed and want to eat a hotdog because they’re trendy or some shit sausage. It was too good for that bun. And it knew it. It was an embarrassed sausage. I’d prefer they’d just admitted it was a sausage roll with lowly pretensions and given me some ketchup. The onions were fucking good though.
Next, the shrimp Po’boy. That was excellent. I just did some research though, and it turns out our Po’boy was nothing like a real fucking Po’boy. Apparently, it’s all about the bread – good long French baguette or the like – but ours was served in a brioche bun, just like the burger. I didn’t know that then. To be honest, I don’t care. The breaded shrimp – sorry, I have to call them prawns – tasted great, big and juicy and dirty, and it came with a hunk of tomato and creamy, crunchy coleslaw. We fought over the Po’boy a bit. He pointed out it was the extra third he was paying for. I ignored him. A total surprise hit.
Now the Poutine – not sure about that one. I’m still not entirely sure what the fuck Poutine is meant to be like – proper, Canadian Poutine. I had pig-face Poutine at the Spitalfields Hawksmoor Bar, and it was insanely rich, like a porky stew, with these big curds of cheese, like firm mozzarella balls. Here it was creamy goat’s cheese, and the gravy was a lot milder. It had an anniseedy, cardamom like taste to it – not so much to piss me off, like the Rotary Bar and Diner – but definitely present. I kept deciding I didn’t like it then going back for another forkful. It was okay, but I don’t feel I’ve had enough Poutine experience to be a proper judge on that one. Pass.
Ah, the onion rings. Definite star of the evening. Huge, fuck-off wedges of onion with this gorgeous, golden, greasy batter – puffed and airy, giving the ring space to breath and just the right amount of squidge and crunch to each mouthful. Corr, they were delicious. We fought over those a bit too. A very reasonable £2.50.
Now, I just want to clear something up. Reading over this, it all sounds a bit shit. It wasn’t. I’ll tell you what it was like. It was like your best mate, who had been inviting you over for dinner for years, had finally scraped enough money together to open a restaurant in an up and coming area, and done their own, homemade twist on the American fast-food trend. But it still tasted just like they’d made you dinner back in their flat. It was really, really good home cooking. The burger tasted exactly like something the boy and I would make. But with the wrong cheese. The hot dog just tasted confused – I would probably have done a better job on that one. The Po’boy and the onion rings, to be fair, rocked. And the Poutine – fuck knows.
Combined with the super relaxed, friendly atmosphere and the mezzanine style layout, I did leave feeling a bit like I’d gone for dinner in a stranger’s house – but that is no way a criticism. The whole meal came to a measly £24, and I was full, relaxed and promised to return with friends. It’d be a great place to meet for a few drinks and a bite before a night out, or just a cheap catch up meal. Everyone that worked there was good looking, smiley and non-judgmental (“You did well – I’m impressed!” the waitress beamed, non-sarcastically, after clearing our empty plates). I wouldn’t say this was a foodie-destination but if you’re in the area – and I have a feeling we all will be in the future – then I strongly advise a visit. Geddit? (sorry).