If you’re looking for one of the best-value and most considered tasting menus in London – by some serious up-and-coming talent – look no further than Nest, in Hackney.
Set up by long-term friends Luke Wasserman, Toby Neill and Johnnie Crowe, Nest found its permanent home in a corner of a former pub in November, after a year of pop-ups. With a handful of thick-topped wooden tables, modestly decorated with tea lights, linen napkins and antique cutlery, Nest’s two set menus (one’s completely veggie) are scrawled on hanging blackboards, £32 for six courses, plus homemade soda bread and hand-churned butter. Impressive, right? What might surprise you further, though, is the commitment to sustainability these young entrepreneurs have taken.
Head chef Johnnie, who ran a small catering company before running a pub kitchen and stints at The Harwood Arms and Anglo, focusses on only one meat product in the kitchen at a time, while restaurant manager Luke and business manager Toby nail the front of house, serving low-intervention wines, cracking English negronis made with Surrey gin, Hackney amaro and Highgate vermouth, and wild yeast-fermented ciders.
On our visit, sika deer, reared by Julian Stoyle of Red Oak Deer Park, is the order of the day. It first comes in a delicately layered potato cake, super crisp, super soft (the texture of Potato Smiles, if you know – you know), well seasoned, with smoked shoulder, and addictively good anchovy mayo. Later it reappears as venison wellington, ruddy, buttery, wrapped in a delicious duvet of pear, duxelle, savoy cabbage and crisp golden pastry, with pear, perry and parsnip purées on the side, and two rissoles impaled with liquorice root, drizzled with piquant Oxford sauce. Every plate, be it meat, fish or veggie, punches, and the coins of soft, forest-scented juniper toffee served in a nest round the meal off perfectly.