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This clean-lined, popular wine bar proves that, despite its somewhat dilapidated demeanour, Hackney Road gets all the luck when it comes to the grape: named after a poem, The Laughing Heart isn’t far from Sager + Wilde and gives its acclaimed wine list a run for its money. Spread over two floors, the basement bottle shop lies beneath a low-lit dining room, informed by minimalist chic and a young, professional crowd. The wines kick off with a page of daily updated by-the-glass options, which make room for rosé alongside, for example, South Africa’s Mother Rock white or Burgundy’s Vini Viti Vinci. Beyond this selection, the full list majors in affordability and European vineyards, with plenty to amuse fans of skin-contact wines. Food is taken just as seriously, although with high prices and small portions, we recommend treating The Laughing Heart as a place for drinking with intriguing snacks. Don’t miss the brown crab butter served with sourdough, a highly addictive, light-as-air concoction. Elsewhere, the menu skips across the globe, from charred pak choi in a dark, salty Shaoxing-inspired broth, to a meagre but delicious helping of Dexter beef, dripping with butter. Our tips? Don’t arrive hungry, and check the secret drawer in your table before accusing them of forgetting your cutlery.
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