Hackney Wick has certainly undergone a lot of change in recent years. Following the 2012 Olympics in the neighbouring surrounds, a further array of regenerated warehouses, have transformed into social hubs, bursting at the seams on a sunny weekend. Young Londoners travel in swathes to the area that now promises a mix of rough and ready eateries peppered along the canal, beer halls, music and event spaces. All have an undercurrent of East London creative coolness - with a DIY artsy edge - which the area has always been steeped in. A few streets back from the renewed overground station is predominantly residential housing, with more new housing developments underway- notably, the new Bagel Factory apartments, a little sleek and high end for the neighbourhood many would comment.
Enter Tom Brown, Nathan Outlaw’s young protégée and Great British Menu favourite. In April 2018, his first solo restaurant Cornerstone opened in a new-build, in the heart of residential Hackney Wick- a somewhat surprising site choice. Its opening was closely followed by numerous celebratory reviews from impressed critics, and our first visit had us raving to anyone who would listen about our time there. So good, it was time to return and soak up the lunchtime atmosphere a year on.
First the interior. The restaurant is extremely minimal industrial, with Nordic touches. An island kitchen in the centre of the space is where Brown and team work in full-view to all seating. It’s blackened metal cladding and elegant, slim gantry above, stand out in the white space. On the poured concrete floor sit black lacquered tables and Hans Wegner Wishbone Chairs. Woven woollen fabric snakes along one side of the room to add some softness and aid acoustics, with plants, framed artwork and lights dotted along the other. At the rear of the space, en route to the wine display and green painted storage walls, a framed - and signed by Alex Turner- copy of the Artcic Monkey’s record, Cornerstone sits pride of place. The space works really well on this sunny Saturday lunchtime, feeling fresh and bright. We think we prefer this to the evening setting where - although still very pleasant - the interior risks being slightly too minimal to be cosy.
Moving on to the food, Cornerstone offers a £45 chef’s menu, which is so reasonable considering the high quality of food on offer. We decide to go with our own choices however as there were too many tempting dishes. We start with a pickled oyster, celery horseradish and a dash of dill presented on a bed of pebbles, accompanied by a Bloody Mary. Brill tartar, asparagus and egg yolk follows in a beautiful glazed ceramic dish. Next, and perhaps the most surprising and interesting dish we have tried in recent memory- the mackerel pate. Not like any texture you would ever expect, with cider jelly and accompanied by a warm treacle bread bun. The culinary highlight of our year so far! For our final course we choose the crab crumpet rarebit with Worcestershire sauce and turbot with roast chicken butter sauce. Fish in a hot chicken sauce- genius. Although a tempting selection of desserts to choose from, we cannot eat anything more.
Tom Brown has taken the delicate and high-quality nature of fresh seafood and fish cookery yet turned it on its head at Cornerstone. The dishes are in essence simple, but executed with such precision and surprise, that we are still raving about this restaurant a year in. We won’t wait as long for our next visit.