The Elephant’s Head, Hackney

In Foody Travellers Recommend... by Simon WillmoreLeave a Comment

A Hackney-based friend and I called in for dinner at the Elephant’s Head, an atmospheric Victorian gastropub in the heart of Hackney, and very much enjoyed the evening.

A handsome building lovingly restored

The pub, a handsome building dating back to the 1890s, has recently had been lovingly restored and given back its original name, after serving time as an Irish pub and a cocktail bar. It’s handily situated, less than ten minutes’ walk from Hackney Central station, in the relatively quiet setting of the Lower Clapton Road.

Interesting architectural features

Be sure to look down, at the entrance, to spot the colourful original mosaic with a sagacious-looking black elephant’s head.

Then, as you go in, look up and around and prepare to be amazed by the interior: here salvaged architectural features, including a glazed and illuminated Art Deco ceiling from a cinema in Victoria, and a door from Clerkenwell prison, have been combined with original Victorian ones, stripped wall finishes, leather banquettes and wood panelling and some quirky accessories to create a dark, atmospheric space.

The elegant mirrored bar, and the subterranean loos work especially well. (Although we would have welcomed a bit more illumination on our way down to the latter as it involved some very steep stairs and across a cobbled floor.)

Cocktails a speciality

On a weekday evening the place was relatively quiet, but we were given a warm welcome and made to feel very much at home by the friendly staff. Cocktails are a speciality, and the list definitely looked tempting, as did the selection of London, Bristol and Belgian craft beers.

In the end we settled on a pleasant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Pitau Marlborough, which complemented our food nicely.

We ate well

We ate well, picking and choosing from the bar menu and set menus offered on weekday evenings (Sunday lunchtimes feature a “bottomless roast”). The Elephant’s Head takes a justifiable pride in its high-quality, locally and ethically sourced ingredients.

Both our starters – a crab pâté and a wild mushroom pâté – were excellent, very flavoursome, as was the toasted sourdough bread that accompanied them, from Hackney’s Dusty Knuckle bakery. thedustyknuckle.com

Our main courses were a bit less successful: my friend’s chickpea and lentil burger was on the dry side, though the sweet potato fries were good, and my moules frites just a little too salty.

But we were more than satisfied with our dessert choices: my rhubarb and custard tart was not only delicious, but a thing of beauty, while my friend professed himself more than delighted with the his “Build Your Own Sundae” choices, featuring ice cream from Hackney Gelato in London Fields. www.hackneygelato.com

All in all, a very enjoyable evening. Hopefully we will be able to go back soon and try out that Bottomless Sunday Roast. And perhaps a cocktail or two… elephanthackney.com

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