Founder of vegan Chinese restaurant Mao Chow in Hackney Julian Denis is the man behind Facing Heaven, an also-vegan and also-in-Hackney venture located just around the corner from the original Mao Chow HQ. The 28-cover restaurant is named after a Sichuanese chilli and offers an elevated and inventive take on regional Chinese food, alongside a list of natural wines, craft beer and baijiu cocktails.
Many of the dishes have been inspired by a broad range of influences, including Julian’s own American upbringing, as well as regional Chinese cuisines from Cantonese to Yunnan and Shaanxi. The food is all 100% plant-based and showcases fresh, bold and spicy flavours.
The menu focuses on sharing, feasting-style dishes including the likes of ‘spicy and numbing’ twice fried Jerusalem artichokes with green chilli dip, and stir-fried blood sausage with lacto chilli and fresh garlic to start. Main sharing dishes, meanwhile, feature dongpo cauliflower and a whole sizzling aubergine. Customers can also order Julian’s take on Macau-style baked pork chop rice, a casserole-type dish from Macau, with his version featuring fragrant coconut rice, melted (vegan) cheese and crispy oyster mushroom chops.
There is also a list of weekly-changing specials as well as a retro-inspired dessert menu. Keep your eyes peeled for the malt caramel and strawberry powder ice cream sundae. To drink, there is a list of natural wines and alternative cocktails using Baijiu, a traditional Chinese liquor.
So, what of the décor? Mao Chow’s signature neon colour palette is similarly employed at Facing Heaven, along with black and white chequered flooring and low lit lighting to create an upbeat yet intimate atmosphere. McDonald’s yellow seating includes tables, banquettes and bar seats while panoramic windows take up the two street side walls. A large table with a lazy Susan can be found in the centre of the restaurant, for larger groups to feast on the sharing menu.