Lucky and Joy, London E5: restaurant review
Try charred chicken wings, pineapple fried rice and Szechuan negronis at this regional Chinese outfit in east London
Looking for Hackney restaurants? Read our review of Lucky & Joy, or check out our guide here.
Lucky & Joy in a nutshell
Vibrant regional Chinese cooking with punchy flavours in Clapton.
After two years of acclaimed pop-ups, ex-Moro and Morito chef Ellen Parr, and partner Pete Kelly (also ex-Morito, and former head of drinks at Night Tales) have opened a 44-cover space in Hackney.
What's the vibe?
Cheerful and functional, with simple wooden tables and chairs, laidback chefs working away quietly in an open kitchen and pops of bright colour everywhere, as well as mood lighting in a shifting palette of cool purples, pinks and blues. Pots of plastic chopsticks stand on each table, and menus double as order forms where you tick the dishes you want and give it to your (friendly, approachable) waiter.
What's the food like at Lucky & Joy?
Ellen and Pete have cherry-picked their favourite flavours, ingredients and dishes gleaned from travels in China, and the menu, though short, is an illuminating introduction to lesser-known regional cuisines, from Macau to Xinjiang (the restaurant also gives diners a helpful map of China detailing where their culinary inspiration comes from).
Grandma’s potatoes are salty, spicy spud fragments tossed with chopped spring onions, tangy pickled mustard greens and chilli powder. Savoury with a little kick of heat, it’s perfectly moreish. Yunnan aubergine comes smokily grilled and tender, with morsels of curd-like silken tofu hiding under rustling drifts of crispy fried shallots, sliced chillies and fresh herbs. It’s a dish that sings of the south-western province’s shared borders with Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos.
Elsewhere, lightly smoky turnip cake comes with more crispy shallots, sesame seeds and silky, soft-boiled eggs, while pineapple fried rice arrives in the hollowed fruit, sweet-salty and perkily spicy. Red braised pork belly, a classic dish in Chinese cuisine, sees the meat cooked to yielding softness, with buttery fat and a sultry, soy-spiked sauce.
Top billing in the meal goes to the chicken wings – all charred, crispy, umami flavour, with an addictive, blue-cheese-like funk from a fermented tofu marinade. Order two bowlfuls – you won’t regret it.
And the drinks?
There’s a pithy list of natural wines, an equally succinct cocktail list (try the Szechuan negroni, with its lip-tingling edge of Szechuanese pepper), hip craft beer cans and interesting soft options such as homemade hibiscus and pandan soda.
Start or finish your meal with a glass (or two) of natural wine at P Franco, just a few doors down. Want to explore other Chinese restaurants in London? Read our guide here.