THE LAUGHING HEART
Probably one of the best meals I’ve had this year, The Laughing Heart in Hackney is a wonderfully smart venue that operates as a late night wine bar, dining room and wine shop. The space is intimate and cozy with a warm and comforting open kitchen and brickwork walls. The tables – all custom built – each hold individual cutlery drawers for every diner. We were really taken aback with this thoughtful, ingenious and quite simply, adorable touch, and it really set the tone for the wonderful meal that was to come.
The food, sharing plates of modern-European with Asian influences, were all inspired, starting with the Dungarvan oyster with shiso and apple (£2.50 each) which was incredibly fresh and refreshing. The oyster was meaty and rich, and both the sweetness and sharpness of the apple, and the aroma of the shiso served as a lovely contrast to the oyster.
Cod’s roe with crudites and furikake (£7) were simply delicious. Here you had the creamy richness of the cod’s roe balanced by the gloriously fresh seasonal vegetables. The furikake offered an additional depth to the intensity of the roe.
Pig’s head and kimchi croquettes with wild garlic mayo (£6) were also scrumptious. The pig’s head filling was rich and moreish, and contrasted well with the acidity of the kimchi. The crispy and light panko crumbs were a dream, and the delightful homemade wild garlic mayo completed this dish with its garlicy aroma and creamy overtones.
The pork and apricot terrine (£8) was also a joy to eat. Meaty and tasty, there was a wonderful ratio of meat to fat, counterbalanced by the touches of apricot littered throughout the terrine. Serving to complete the dish was a fabulous buttery brioche and some pickled shallots.
Cornish crab chawanmushi, English peas and yuzu (£12) was another delight to behold. It was resplendent with the beautiful flavour of crab. The peas were wonderfully fresh and the dashes of yuzu provided the dish with the touches of acidity that it needed.
We were mesmerised by the intensity of flavour in a perfectly cooked 12 year old Hereford beef with wild garlic and calcots (£20). The meat was tender and gamey and had been brought to a perfect pink colour. This was a really superb cut of meat.
To desserts, and a Basque cheesecake (£8) was blindingly good. It was a perfectly executed concoction of textures and flavours and showed off the most impressive technique. In contrast a Sichuan crème brulee (£6), whilst good, was not as memorable. It was tasty, but did not demonstrate the same level of flair.
What a gutsy, bold showing of heartiness and love! The Laughing Heart offered a complete, dining out, drinking, entertainment experience. I could not fault the food – superb ingredients, excellent execution, originality – nor could I fault the service. The wine list was also excellent, and what’s more, the prices for this quality of cooking was unbelievably reasonable. A true go-to destination.
1) The service.
2) The atmosphere.
3) I enjoyed all the food and I couldn’t find fault with anything
4) The Basque cheesecake is a must. This was truly special.
5) The reasonable prices.
1) All the food was good, but the Sichuan crème brulee was the weakest dish.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5
Price: About £40 to £50 a head, excludes drinks and service.