Hackney has mastered pared-back restaurants that walk a fine line between unfussy dining and hipster-satire vibes. However, Papi seems to have found its place as an eatery serious about food whilst still remaining accessible to everyone, boasting a well polished feel and unpretentious menu. There’s a strong focus on seasonality and zero waste, practising what they preach through fermenting and reinventing leftovers to create the menu for the following day.
We kick things off with white asparagus topped with anchovy and pork lardo, which was perfectly balanced and surprisingly mellow, and then follow it with veal brain, mussels in sugo, and langoustine dishes. Each plate is flawlessly executed, but it was the mussels that really struck a chord with us. Inspired by a panzanella salad, it sees mussels mixed with chunky croutons, skinless tomatoes, basil leaves and a wild garlic sabayon. Ticking the boxes for flavour, texture and presentation, it made us feel slightly sorry for the tried and tested traditional version with its regrettable predictability.
The desserts took a slightly more playful approach, with laid back flavours and enough sprinkles to remind us that Papi is still a friendly neighbourhood restaurant. Whilst we aren’t sure the raw cream custard with pomelo and elderflower is something to write home about, the brown butter waffle with vacherin ice cream and rhubarb was pretty epic. It’s delicious and thought provoking, for both its nostalgic reminder of doughnuts at the fairground, and for raising the question as to why fried waffles aren’t already dominating the London dessert scene.
The wine list is overseen by co-founder Charlie Carr, who runs Wingnut wines in Netil Market, and knows a thing or two about natural wines. It’s hard not to get swept up in his enthusiasm, but you can rest assured that no matter what you decide to go for, you’re in safe hands here.
If we’re ever summoned up into heaven (rather than ushered in the other direction), we hope it looks a little like this.