Facing Heaven

Bronze Award

SquareMeal Review of Facing Heaven

Bronze Award

Hackney vegans rejoice - cult hangout Mao Chow has been reborn literally around the corner, in an equally unassuming location that retains all the original’s neon diner charm. The name refers to the Sichuanese 'facing heaven' chilli that grows pointing upwards, rather than dangling towards the earth. Armed with that knowledge, you should freely expect to be faced with a lot of chillies here, but in our experience, many of those chillies are completely avoidable and Facing Heaven isn't a total spice-fest.

Facing Heaven can generously be termed as ‘buzzy’ - understandably the team are trying to make the most of the space, so they manage to squeeze in a good number of people and combined with the music, the restaurant is pretty loud as a result. 

We take a seat on a bright yellow window table and get stuck into the food, which comes thick and fast out of the kitchen, so much so that our little table runs out of real estate very quickly. First, lovely crispy cauliflower florets, laden with a good handful of those crispy chillies, then a creamy matchstick potato salad with the gentle waft of wild garlic dressing and mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper. These are both simple and effective, but the highlights are still to come - crispy tofu skin dusted with seasoning that conjures memories of crispy chicken skin, seaweed toast and ‘everything sauce’ that has a reminiscence of prawn toast and satay, and a vegan dan dan noodle that was as good as any we’ve had. There’s plenty more on the menu that we could have tried and we suspect would have been just as good, though we did leave feeling as though a lot of the flavours had been a touch on the sweet side. 

A dessert of HK French toast was a little too stodgy and cloying for our liking, but it was also wholly unnecessary after a fantastic dinner. Plant-based food has a rep for being a bit middle-of-the-road and vanilla at times - doubters should go to Facing Heaven for a taste of pull-no-punches vegan Chinese food.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - Under £30
Cool, Cosy, Fun, Lively, Quirky, Unique
Food Occasions
Special Features
Vegan options, Vegetarian options
Perfect for
Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating


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. 


1a Bayford Street, Hackney, London, E8 3SE

Opening Times

Mon Closed
Tue 18:00-23:00
Wed 18:00-23:00
Thu 18:00-23:00
Fri 18:00-23:00
Sat 18:00-23:00
Sun Closed


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