Restaurant review: The Russet, Amhurst Terrace, Hackney Downs

Community cafe The Russet

Community cafe The Russet - Credit: Archant

Not only is the Russet an ethical eater’s paradise but with live music, exhibitions from local artists, family yoga classes and ducks out the back, it’s a place for the whole community.

Vodka and beetroot marinated salmon gravadlax at The Russet

Vodka and beetroot marinated salmon gravadlax at The Russet - Credit: Archant

The seed for the “café with a cultural mission” was planted by the guy behind Dalston Cola and the Dalston People’s Kitchen, Steve Wilson.

Cucumber cannelloni stuffed with herbed cashew cheese at The Russet

Cucumber cannelloni stuffed with herbed cashew cheese at The Russet - Credit: Archant

He’s passionate about sustainable, high quality food and wanted to create a place where everyone is welcome - hence he’s made sure there’s a very affordable “no frills” £5 lunch option available every day.

Dalston cola at The Russet

Dalston cola at The Russet - Credit: Archant

“It’s so trendy in here,” my friend from Balham remarked as we walked in.

It’s true that the spacious, dimly lit former industrial unit in Amhurst Terrace which backs onto Hackney Downs, is pretty cool, kitted out with stripped-back untreated wood and its mish-mash of eclectic styles - with well-worn 70s sofas, modern art, retro clocks, a vintage radio, and old school chairs - quite possibly literally.

But when I ask my friend to put her finger on what she means, it’s the clientele which stand out for her.

“All the people have beards,” she said.

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“It’s just not like that in south London where I come from.”

Just as she spoke two more bearded chaps walked in as proof.

Beards seem to fit well into the wholesome, rustic atmosphere here, and its natural, pared-back ethos.

This is reflected in the food too - which is homemade, healthy and very tasty, super fresh and as you would expect, seasonal.

We’d come to try out the evening tapas menu, which as it turns out is right up my street.

There’s an array of veggie, meat and fish options, all priced at from £3.50 to £6, and we’re impressed and intrigued when our choices are dished up.

The beetroot and vodka home-cured gravadlax is a stunning ruby red colour and has a warmly-tinged flavour, unlike any other salmon I’ve ever tasted.

We’re surprised that the cucumber cannelloni stuffed with herbed cashew cheese has nothing to do with pasta, and is actually refreshing and crunchy with the thinly-sliced cucumber wrapped around the filling.

The courgette noodles with pea and mint pesto with crushed walnuts again have nothing to do with carbs, and are instead pure refreshing veg sliced up so thinly that you could never create this at home - I want the machine that makes them, and I’d eat this every day, it’s delicious.

Also gracing the menu are roasted spiced cauliflower with pomegranate and almonds, slow-cooked Dalston Cola sticky chicken and a Thai style coconut and crab cake with lemon aioli.

At lunchtime larger plates are served up at very reasonable prices, and again it is well worth a look in with dishes like quinoa and beetroot topped with goats cheese.

With breakfast, brunch, and Sunday roast dinners, this place opens round the clock, and the prices are so reasonable it’s the kind of place I’d like to hang out in every day, if only I had the time.

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