It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that the latest offering to join the ranks is a vegan-only tapas restaurant and cocktail bar. Called The Brook, this unassuming spot on Mare Street is recreating comfort food favourites, including quesadillas, skewers and deep-fried bites.
Despite its relatively prominent location, you could easily walk straight past The Brook, with its unassuming awnings and shabby chic exteriors, if you weren't looking for it. The restaurant’s unfussy outward appearance continues into its interiors too, where unlaid tables await their guests and rustic materials line the walls. Service was slow on our visit and our waiter was notably sassy at first – pursed lips, eyeballing the ceiling as we ordered; he looked like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world than serving us. That said, it was a busy night, and he warmed up as the evening went on.
Forget appearance and service, though, the food is what you’ll be coming to The Brook for. Dishes range from £3 – £9 in price, and the tapas concept adopted here means you won’t find yourself wading through a dish you’re not fond of while eyeing up your companion’s plate. Instead, you’ll be tucking into a sharing board of indulgent vegan goodness.
Highlights include the jackfruit quesadillas: the blend of vegan cheese and crème fraîche with tangy pickled cabbage and sweet pineapple salsa made each mouthful interesting, while the jackfruit itself bared a strong resemblance to pork but tasted lighter and fresher. Meanwhile the lime and coconut dal proved a summery take on the classic dish that’ll have you begging for the recipe. Then there's the sesame chick’n skewers – which came with a roast garlic and squash puree, and sesame lime pesto drizzled on top – which were succulent, beautifully seasoned, and just as good (arguably better) than real chicken equivalents, which are often dry and rely too heavily on their accompanying dip. Less exciting were the Cajun nugz, which had the consistency of dry falafel.
It might come as a shock to learn that alcoholic offerings are not always vegan (it was to half our party, anyway). Wines are often filtered through fish bladders, or produced using animal-derived fining agents. Not those on the menu at The Brook, though. Still, the cocktails – priced £8-10 – are the more exciting beverage offering here. We tried the ‘St Lilly’ – a fusion of St-Germain, Lillet Blanc, fresh grapefruit, lemon and prosecco – which pleased with its combination of sweet, bitter and tangy flavours. The ‘From Mexico With Love’ – reposado tequila, Patrón Silver tequila, pink grapefruit, fresh lime, vanilla bean paste and homemade raspberry syrup – was a little too watery and came with fine salt around the rim (instead of far more enticing coarse sea salt). It was, however, saved by the unusual addition of a raspberry syrup lurking at the bottom.
Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling the desserts. You won’t notice the lack of real cheese in the vanilla cheesecake (the vegan in our party said it was one of the best she’s tried), while the Green & Blacks brownie was rich and practically oozing out of itself. In fact, we’d return for the sweet treats alone.
The Brook started life as a plant-based, planet-friendly, cruelty-free supper club. Its Hackney base is only temporary and a crowdfunding initiative is already underway to find the restaurant a permanent home from early 2019. Our advice? Visit now, and if you’re as convinced by its produce as we were, you might find yourself donating to help find The Brook a new home.
|What||The Brook, Hackney restaurant review|
|Where||The Brook, 171 Mare Street , London, E8 3RH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Fields (overground)|
|Price||£3-£9 per tapas dish|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|