When an area is synonymous with a certain cuisine, it can be hard to fit in with the neighbourhood without seeming like an add-on; a fraud; the only one that didn’t get the memo about lawn mowing and Christmas lights. Many have tried and failed to shoehorn their way into...
When an area is synonymous with a certain cuisine, it can be hard to fit in with the neighbourhood without seeming like an add-on; a fraud; the only one that didn’t get the memo about lawn mowing and Christmas lights.
Many have tried and failed to shoehorn their way into Brick Lane’s eclectic mix of time-honoured curry houses, carefully cool dive bars and 24-hour bagel shops, slinking back to Soho or the West End with nothing but a beef vindaloo takeaway to show for their efforts.
So it was probably with at least a hint of apprehension that restaurateur Jonathan Cowley landed on a site just across from the famous Beigel Bake for his first solo venture following stints at Chick ’n’ Sours, Bleecker Burger and Street Feast.
There needn’t have been, because Hopscotch doesn’t feel like a new kid on the block, rather the new neighbourhood favourite you never knew you needed. Rather than drawing lines in the sand (or on the pavement) between the bar that has you scoffing a meal deal to line your stomach and the snazzy restaurant that sends you home well before bedtime, Cowley has managed to blur them, bringing the best of both worlds to the E1 playground.
The self-described “dining room and drinking den” holds a restaurant at ground level with a carefully curated menu of 15 small plates, plus an equally refined list of cocktails and wines ranging from the moderately priced to the moderately brow-raising.
Down below, the basement ‘drinking den’ has more of the same moody timber decor and low lighting, as well as a whittled-down bar menu and a slightly more dangerous-sounding cocktail list.
When it opened back in December, Hopscotch’s menu promised buns, balls and little else. Several months down the track and the former has been dialed back and the latter seems to have been ditched altogether to make way for a curious combination of Middle Eastern flavours, with a polite nod to its east London heritage in the form of smoked eel on toast.
The smoked goat is melt-in-your-mouth as is the burrata, a simple sounding dish elevated by the sweetness of heirloom carrots and crunch of hazelnuts. Mussels swimming in a sizzling Sichuan broth will have you unashamedly dunking pieces of flatbread, spoons and cocktail straws into the bowl.
The kohlrabi was the only stumbling block; erring on the side of bland made worse by a hit of food envy as tender pieces of fried chicken arrived at a neighbouring table. The same cannot be said for the cocktails however; adventurous combinations like the Japanese Cosmo (cranberry, plum wine, vodka and lime) and the Mexican Breakfast (spiced peach apricot and lemon with plenty of tequila) alongside fresh crowd pleasers like the KD Royale (gin, elderflower and fizz).
But the star of the show has to be the 24-Carat Colada; a 750ml two-person concoction served up in a golden pineapple. It is only available in the restaurant so make sure you nab one upstairs before heading back down to the bar, or vice versa. Therein lies the beauty of blurred lines.
Hopscotch, 202 Brick Lane E1 6SA