Aussie duo Dan Wilson and Andy Leitch (Dan and Andy makes Dandy, get it?) lovingly assembled their first joint venture, Dandy Café, from a shipping container in London Fields in 2015. The mismatch of corrugated iron, wooden planks and dozens of pot plants in all shapes and sizes created a charming spot specialising in natural wines and artisan coffee.
Dandy Café has now upped sticks and moved to Newington Green in a somewhat more grown up venture (they’ve dropped the Café, and are now simply Dandy). The larger site means the plants have a bit more breathing space and happy brunchers can stretch out over huge wooden tables.
All of the elements that gave the original café its rustic charm are still present in Dandy – warm and witty hospitality from Dan and Andy and their staff, an inventive menu that makes fresh produce shine, and talented yet approachable baristas (they can be hard to come by) brewing up artisan coffees.
The large open kitchen and industrial features – concrete floors, exposed roof, plenty of wood – could be a recipe for a “too cool for school” atmosphere, but the space is warmed up with service with a smile and fun wall hangings (our favourite was a muscle man standing in a washing machine).
Natural wines are still a focal point for the team, and there are rows of bottles to buy and take home on the shelves in the corner. We started our evening with a Chinati Vergano Americano spritz, a bitter vermouth-like aperitif served with soda to make more refreshing.
The short food menu lets vibrant produce do the talking. Vegetarian dishes particularly waved; blood orange segments were served on charred radicchio with a seaweed-speckled miso to create a bittersweet plate, and roasted beets were brightened up by pistachio dukkah and salted burrata. Super crunchy fried chicken with harissa mayo and herbs is another must-order.
Whatever time of day you’re visiting (young families with prams and big breakfast parties at brunch time make way for an intimate candlelit evening atmosphere), bread plays a big part in the menu, owing to Dan’s experience at top E5 Bakehouse. For brunch we tried lahmacun Turkish pizza (also on the evening menu) – a grilled flatbread topped with lamb mince, soft pieces of lamb shoulder, a crisp fried egg, tahini and dukkah.
More fluffy flatbread provided perfect mopping material for fragrant coconut dhal, given plenty of texture from chickpeas, lentils, caramelised onions and chunky bits of ginger, with a seriously sweet note from the date chutney.
It wouldn’t be a true Aussie joint if the coffee wasn’t something to shout about. Pale turquoise ceramic cups with freshly brewed filter coffee roasted near Bath by internationally renowned rare coffee specialist, Colonna Coffee Roastery.
There are bags of coffee beans available to buy lined up on Dandy’s shelves, along with those pokey natural wines. But we recommend pulling up a bench to soak up the warm hospitality and unique Newington Green charm.