Thursday, 14 March 2013

Rita's Bar & Dining (at Birthdays), Dalston

The term ‘hipster’ seems to have been bandied about a lot recently, particularly in the talk of restaurants.  Take the Evening Standard’s a little grumpy review of the newly opened The Clove Club in Shoreditch Town Hall, toting it as one of the hottest openings of 2013 ‘for the food-bloggers and hipsters anyway’, mentioning its clone-like diners and plentiful beards.  Although there is a certain look to the bars/restaurants/cafes/outfits in trendy parts of (usually East) London, frankly the term's just a bit silly.

If you were to use it though, the home of the ‘hipster’ would most probably be Dalston.  I’ve never properly explored it, but the lovely L from work decided I needed to leave N1 on Saturday night, so off we went for some cocktails and food.

We started at the Ridley Road Market Bar with ginger mojitos, before going to Rita’s Bar and Dining.   Rita’s is a ‘travelling food and drink collaboration’ between Jackson Boxer, Gabriel Pryce and Missy Flynn – it’s currently at Birthdays, and they were at Feast last weekend at Tobacco Dock.  They are also hosting Rita’s Supper Club in collaboration with Feat, with a series of dinner nights (£45 tickets for dinner and drinks).

This Rita’s menu includes versions of American-ish classics, all a little artery-clogging (bacon-brittle anyone?), but those we tried were delicious.  The fried chicken roll (£6.50) arrived fast-food style in a Rita’s brown paper bag, and was the best fried chicken I’ve had – juicy and tender meat in the crispy coating, in a squishy, glazed bun with lettuce and mayo.

The patty melt (£6.50) was richly savoury, with beef mince, melted cheese and sweet onions inside the toasted, greasy bread.  We also ordered greens with a tangy mustard sauce (£3.50), and the green chilli mac and cheese (£4), with a dollop of avocado on top.  On the next table the specials of pulled pork Cuban sandwich and crispy fried crushed potatoes looked just as good.

The food’s not expensive, at just £10 each with our pretty restrained ordering, and we also had some great Tommy’s margaritas (just tequila, lime juice and agave nectar - £6.50) beforehand at the bar.  The place was pretty packed on Saturday night when we left about 10, so we headed to Ruby’s bar up the road for rhubarb sours.  L’s compliment of a man’s beard got us free cocktails, so maybe the pride in a trendy Dalston beard isn’t such a bad thing after all.

UPDATE Dec 2013 - The Rita's residency at Birthdays has finished, but they now have a permanent home on Mare Street in Hackney.  An updated post is here.

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