This isn’t the sort of place that you’d stumble upon accidentally. Set back from the main road a few minutes from London Fields overground, Wringer and Mangle is for cool East Londoners in the know. This used to be an industrial laundry (hence the name) and the team have paid homage to this with the décor – think cavernously high ceilings, whitewashed brickwork, rustic wooden tables, filament lightbulbs and the odd antique mangle – there’s also an ever-changing display of contemporary art adorning the walls, and the loos, with vintage laundry adverts and washing lines hanging from the ceiling, are definitely worth a visit.
The first half of this long room is dedicated to the bar, and with good reason. Gerry Calabrese (of The Hoxton Pony and Hoxton gin) is behind the drinks here, and he’s hitting two big trends for 2016 (homemade sodas and single cocktail focus) at once. The vast menu of 30 drinks is inspired by the classic collins cocktail but they’ve been updated, built around soda as the hero ingredient, with flavours ranging from honey to peppermint. Try the pistachio collins; a refreshing mix of pistachio-infused Bombay Sapphire, orgeat, lemon and ginger root, lime and honey soda; or, the walnut Jack blazer collins, a fusion of the collins with another classic – the blazer – made with Jack Daniels infused with duck fat-roasted walnuts, shaken with winter spices, layered over ice and topped with a citrus and raisin foam. These two styles of cocktail aren’t natural glass fellows, but this weirdly works.
With a big name behind the bar, you might think that food was an afterthought, but the confident, British-focussed menu has been designed by Oisin Coyle (Terroirs, Skylon) and features dishes such as rich whole quail with salty Alsace bacon and sweet, juicy raisins (so good we’d like to see this as a main), brown shrimp and kohlrabi, and potato and bacon salad with poached egg and punchy hollandaise. Mains are equally good: pan-fried hake was expertly cooked and served in a clam and chorizo broth with great depth of flavour, fall-apart braised pork cheeks were served with silky-smooth mash, and meltingly-soft Devon lamb balanced with earthy aubergine and fresh salsa verde. All the dishes here deliver big, comforting flavours, the kind you crave on dark winter nights.
Desserts, unfortunately, weren’t quite as successful; a smooth, rich chocolate pot with honeycomb and Jersey cream delivered as described but wasn’t exceptional, and while crème brûlée had a thick, glassy crust, the custard beneath hadn’t set. Our advice? Order more savoury dishes and, if you’re craving that sweet hit at the end, revisit the cocktail list.