Looking for restaurants in east London? Read our review of cool, continental Casa Fofó, and check out our guide for more places to eat and drink in Hackney here.
Casa Fofó in a nutshell
An exceptional, yet accessible, haven for Hackney foodies where continental flavours collide without breaking the bank.
Casa Fofó is the baby of Italian head chef Adolfo De Cecco, who’s best known for his time at Pidgin, and is joined by alumni from his time here – sous chef Sam Coleman and chef de partie Giuseppe Pepe.
What’s the vibe?
There’s little else of consequence on Sandringham Road in Hackney, but only a few minutes’ walk from Hackney Downs station, Casa Fofó is worth the journey. Inside there’s stripped brick and white-washed walls, with tiny wooden tables, shelves of low-intervention, natural wines and trailing ivy, and an exposed, open kitchen at the back, where the chefs quietly beaver away.
What’s the food like at Casa Fofó?
Think of a good start to a meal – fry it, cover it in animal fat, and you’ll be seriously close to the opening hand of Casa Fofó. Eight courses (for just £39 – here’s a contender for London’s new best-value tasting menu) are kicked off with a super-crisp potato cake finger with a spiced slice of pickled daikon and lardo, taken from a well-fed Middle White pig. The menu, which is tweaked daily, is Marie Kondo-esque minimal with only a few words to describe each finely tuned dish, making each arrival a pleasant surprise.
Wedges of focaccia (the chef is Italian, remember) arrive with a trendy smear of whipped jalapeño butter topped with miso-cured cod’s roe. ‘Almond, crab, monk’s beard’ turns out to be a thick, creamy almond and garlic emulsion encased in a giant, single, silky raviolo, with an earthy, hot and sour brown crabmeat and tom yum foam, with welcome pops of salt from the sea vegetables.
There’s also asparagus with bread sauce made from the day before’s leftover focaccia, and XO sauce, and a round of aubergine draped with a lively tomato sambal. Retired dairy cow arrives hidden beneath a blanket of silky jerusalem artichoke sauce – the natural nuttiness of the root matching the maturity and natural funk of the beef – with an unadulterated, refreshing dwarf pak choi.
Desserts further show off the skill of the kitchen without feeling overly complicated or try-hard – strawberries arrive stewed and as a granita, with a citrussy pine ice cream and nuggets of caramelised popcorn for sugary sweetness and crunch. In the last hoorah, pineapple comes with crumbled green coriander cake, crêpe and an inspired sweet heat from szechuan pepper.
And if you’re palate hasn’t been stimulated enough already, there’s even yuzu and salted caramel and miso, sesame seed and white chocolate mouthfuls with the bill.
And the drinks?
In yet another example of the good-value good times to be had at Casa Fofó, there’s the option of wine pairing for only £28, although the brilliantly curated list is all available by the glass or bottle, too – with nothing creeping above £40. French front-of-house (and former sommelier at Magpie), Marika Moulin, is supremely well versed, whether she sticks to the list or not, so you can trust in her decisions. Unoaked, unfiltered French chardonnay (Être à l’Ouest) tastes of a cooler clime in Limoux and sings with the almond, crab and monk’s beard.
This is a restaurant for proper foodies who appreciate each course being delivered and described in detail, who like to experiment with their wine, and don’t mind embracing a bit of East London cool. If you’re down with all that (and we definitely are) book your table immediately (window seats are best).
Casa Fofo, 158 Sandringham Road, London, E8 2HS
Words and photographs by Laura Rowe