What can you tell me about Cornerstone?
It's the first restaurant from Tom Brown, who previously worked as head chef at Nathan Outlaw's London restaurant Outlaw's at The Capital. Much like that restaurant, Cornerstone is primarily about seafood, and here he's bringing all his tricks to this new venture.
The restaurant's existence is partly down to the money left to Tom by his grandma, which allowed him to set up his own vision. And there are influences from her throughout - look out for the grandfather clock in the corner, the bureau and more - all from her house.
Where is it?
There's no getting around this - it's a little out of the way. The easiest station is Hackney Wick overground - but the immediate area around the station is the very definition of a building site. That said, it's clear to see how it'll be changed dramatically when all the building - including the work to the station itself - is completed.
The restaurant is tucked away in a square about two minutes walk from the station.
Where should we go for a drink first?
We tried a couple of places nearby and both are easy recommendations. First up, there's the Crate brewery nearby, in a great canalside location. Excellent beer, a decent selection of wine (and their flatbreads also looked damned good).
We also loved Pearl, just across the road from Cornerstone. There's a lovely vibe to the place, space outside and they serve a mean pornstar martini with a shot of prosecco on the side.
How about a pre-dinner drink at Cornerstone?
We'd also strongly recommend this. Inside Cornerstone, the bar and kitchen take up the central space. As well as counter dining by the restaurant, there are also some seats by the bar. We had an excellent English Negroni up here (Sacred gin, rose hip, English vermouth) and it's a perfect way to start the meal.
Where should we sit?
It's a large space, and if you like a bit of counter dining, this is the place for you. Otherwise the tables are spaced out well, and ideally, you'll want one by the window.
Is there anything we should immediately order while we make the rest of our choices?
Yes, you should absolutely order the sourdough toast, wonderful bread from Coombeshead Farm. It comes drenched in rapeseed oil and a chunk of coral butter (which is as amazing as it sounds). Order one of these to kick things off - and consider getting another to mop up the sauces from the meal too. It's worth it.
And how about the rest of the menu?
It's a small plates restaurant - so you're talking about 3-4 dishes each - but most of these are fairly easy to share. Normally we'd say to order as you hope to have the plates delivered to the table (i.e. in a couple of batches at least) but Cornerstone were very good at spacing the dishes out, so you're not overwhelmed.
Plates are priced in the teens. Alternatively, you could go for the tasting menu - the chef's selection of 8 dishes at £45 which seems to take in most of the signature dishes.
And seafood does form the bulk of the menu. Even the sole meat dish has clams in it.
Any particular high points?
The dishes we chose were all excellent, each really showcasing the huge talent in the kitchen. So yes, order anything from the menu and we think you'll do very well indeed - but our highlights were:
- Cured Monkfish, grape, almond, sherry vinegar (£14). This is a new one for us, we've never had cured monkfish before and it highlights the kitchen's attention to every detail, mixing the crunch of the almonds with the texture of the monkfish.
- Wye Valley asparagus with smoked cod's roe (£11). We imagine there will be a version of this dish on the menu with the smoked cod's roe being the constant factor. Because it was bloody amazing.
- The potted shrimp crumpet - with kohlrabi, gherkin and parsley (£12). This is the "under no circumstances leave without ordering it" dish. Utterly perfect. You may not want to share.
But we also loved the cider braised cuttlefish - the pairing with the apple dressing worked wonders. And we'd recommend the smoked salmon scotch egg with curry mayo (£13). We'll expect that to crop up in the next scotch egg challenge...
In all - a truly excellent meal.
Anything for vegetarians?
They do indeed offer bespoke versions of quite a few of the dishes for vegetarians and vegans, and you can ask for this menu on the night. For instance, the asparagus dish becomes "Wye Valley Asparagus with Saffron Butter, Hazelnuts", the bread is served with just the rapeseed oil, and the scotch egg becomes "Crispy Hen’s Egg with Curry Mayonnaise".
We just went for the one dessert - the raspberry with pistachio cake and vanilla cream (£10). Alternatively, there is a crumble on the list - but it's cooked to order, so expect a 20-minute wait for that.
And how about the drinks?
There's a one page covering everything from sparkling to orange wine - with the house starting at £25 a bottle. They also win extra points for serving wines at both 125 ml AND 175ml (regular readers will know our thoughts on the former, but the choice is good). We asked for guidance from their self-trained sommelier who steered us towards a perfect biodynamic white.
We'd been hearing very good things about Cornerstone, not least from Giles Coren's enthusiastic review, so our expectations were pretty high. But they were easily met. We loved the meal here, the space and the drinks. Yes, it's a bit out of the way - but it's 100% a restaurant worth crossing town for. Highly recommended.
Hot Dinners were invited to Cornerstone. Prices are correct at the time of writing.
More about Cornerstone
Where is it? 3 Prince Edward Road, London E9 5LX
How to book: book via their website at cornerstonehackney.com
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