Located down a nondescript street a short walk from Hackney Downs station, Casa Fofo is a tasting menu-only neighbourhood joint overseen by former Pidgin head chef Adolfo De Cecco.
It’s a curious and intimate space, which feels a bit like dining in someone’s sparsely decorated living room. There’s an open kitchen on the ground floor and room for fewer than 20 diners across a smattering of tables, while the basement boasts a single communal table, which is better suited to groups. Minimalist interiors feature sanded-down wooden floors and exposed brick walls, but there are a few homely touches, including house plants lined up on shelves and candles on the table.
The no-choice, six-course menu features some truly cutting-edge dishes, which can be supplemented by wine pairings. We loved our helping of homemade focaccia served with a pot of luminous jalapeno butter, which had all the flavour of the chilli but not too much of its fearsome heat, while a starting snack of borage tempura was addictively crispy and finished off with wild garlic flowers.
We were also impressed by the lusciously fatty cubes of pork belly, dressed with slices of carrot and a sticky blob of black apple. To finish, a loaf of house-baked bread, which had been hollowed out and filled with slightly sour mascarpone cream, ended the meal on a high note.
Although we enjoyed what we ate, we couldn’t help thinking that Casa Fofo still has the feel of a restaurant which hasn’t quite found its identity – some of the dishes, like a wet blob of cheese topped with peas and shallot, seemed bland, while the restaurant’s atmosphere felt too serious for the casual setting.
Despite these flaws, there are flashes of brilliance here, too. And there aren’t many places where you’ll find a tasting menu for under £40, so it’s well worth hopping on the train to Hackney if you’re in the mood for some experimental dining.