More and more east London restaurants are becoming all style-over-substance in an attempt to be more Instagrammable and less traditional. It begs the question of where we’ll be eating in 10 years’ time; probably in some sort of underground bunker in Mile End, lit only by the torches on our iPhones.
Lucky and Joy, thankfully, doesn’t fall into this trap. While there are still undeniably a few cool quirks to this Clapton Chinese-inspired restaurant (neon chopsticks, checkbox menus etc), the beautifully simple but consistently delightful small plates of food are still what you’ll leave remembering.
The restaurant is very 80s in feel, with neon lights casting a purple hue over the tables (a nightmare for photos!) and a few plants hanging down from above. However, apart from the odd kitsch detail, the decor is incredibly simple and café-like; on one side of the room there’s a row of basic tables and opposite is a long bar-cum-open kitchen.
The mixture of cold and hot dishes combine the classic flavours of Chinese food with British ingredients and all pop with flavour. The tangy pickled peanuts and cold sesame noodles made for a brilliant start, the latter arriving topped with a mountain of spring onion and sesame seeds which would become a welcome running theme to the meal; the sesame nuttiness perfectly offset the heat of the chilli dressing.
Then came a turnip cake adorned with a soft egg, sitting in a pool of sweet dressing – a dish hard not to like. We particularly couldn’t get enough of the fermented tofu marinated chicken wings which had a rich umami edge to them and went brilliantly with the pineapple fried rice, which was bursting with both coriander and chilli to balance out the sweet chunks of pineapple.
All of this is complemented by a collection of classic cocktails with Chinese twists; try the Szechuan Negroni in which a touch of chilli makes a terrific accompaniment to the zingy food.
Lucky and Joy is a brilliant example of how cool a restaurant can be without overcomplicating stuff and should prove a very welcome addition to the Clapton food scene.