By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
As soon as the news broke of The Richmond’s opening, I was sure that I’d heard it all before. Locally acclaimed chef takes on a new premises within a trendy neighbourhood, serves an overpriced menu of “quintessentially British seasonal food”, all types of on-trend fare, and pricey Craft Beers to the local foodie crowd. And the result, overall, is generally gratuitously underwhelming for anybody that doesn’t own a beard comb or antique bicycle. Thankfully, with our recent visit to The Richmond, Brett Redman and Margaret Crow’s new Hackney dining space, I was left with an experience that proves the aforementioned isn’t always the case.
Taking over the site, which was once home to seedy Egyptian restaurant LMNT, The Richmond lends an instant homely feel with its warm colour scheme and traditional pub layout. Inside, it’s everything that you’d expect from a building that sits on the interchange between Hackney, Dalston, Haggerston and London Fields: it’s incredibly stylish, although surprisingly unpretentious. Following on from the success of Brett’s massively popular Elliot’s restaurant in Borough Market, the menu at The Richmond focuses on comfort food that’s mainly Fish-based with main courses ranging between the £12-£19 mark. And not only does the menu contain plenty of delicious dishes, The Richmond also boasts East London’s first and only raw bar, a selection of natural Wines which includes Red, White, Rose, and Orange (featuring tannins of Red and crisp, sweetness of White), as well as an eclectic selection of Oysters to begin our meal.
With six to choose from, the zealously friendly staff suggest that we sample the Welsh Menai Rocks Oysters (£3.50 each) which taste exactly as one would expect something plunged from the bottom of the Ocean. Texturally, Oysters have never excited me. The taste is fair, albeit acquired, and the notion of chomping on something that texturally resembles a raw Chicken Breast is certainly not for everyone. The homemade ‘Tabasco’ and Shallot Vinegar dressing served as an accompaniment, however, are absolutely delicious. The American Hardshell Clams (£2 each) – recommended for beginners to Oysters – are considerably better, small enough to slip and slide through one’s gullet, allowing the taste to outweigh the sodden crunch of their bigger cousins.
The Starters menu is split into two sections: Raw and Small Plates. The Tuna Tartare (£9) features diced cubes of zingy Tuna that’s served atop a bed of Lemony Basil salad, while the Red Prawns (£9), served heads-and-all, are as scrumptious as they are moreish; dressed in Olive Oil and Lemon. If Raw Fish is a strict “no thanks”, the ‘small plates’ section offers the likes of shredded Crab nestled into a dinky English Muffin (£8), Crispy Prawns (£6), or a salad of Beetroot (£7) that’s topped with diced Apple and Caraway Seeds, perched on a pillow of creamy Goat’s Curd. For the mains, a perfectly-cooked slab of Lamb is married with Baby Turnips and a selection of Beans and Chutes that add an Asian twist to the dish, while my Hake (£14) is served with al dente Chick Peas – a welcome substitute to Potatoes or Rice – which lends a Middle Eastern finish. The Fish is cooked deliciously, topped with Samphire and rich Tomatoes, each delivering another texture to the already delicious meal. While the finishing Banana Tart, which uses the ripest available fruit, is an absolute winner.
The Richmond isn’t merely Hackney’s best new restaurant addition; it may just be London’s best newcomer of 2015, thus far.
The Richmond can be found at 316 Queensbridge Road, London, E8 3NH. ‘Oyster happy hour’ runs from 6-7pm on weekdays and from 5-6pm at the weekend.