Cornerstone – Hackney
3 Prince Edward Rd
London E9 5LX
BY NEAL MARTIN | SEPTEMBER 09, 2022
stream trout pastrami
oyster, cucumber, horseradish and dill
bream tartare with egg yolk, Japanese nori and soy
gurnard, Ajo Blanco, smoked almond, green apples, celery and grapes
bun with fennel kimchi and gooseberry hoisin
Basset, oyster Bordelaise, carrot and parsley
cheesecake with peach, raspberries and vanilla
Heidsieck Brut Reserve
|2020 Franz Haas Gewürztraminer
|2019 Schloss Vollrads Riesling
Winkel Kabinett Trocken
|2021 Gabrielskloof The
Landscape Series Elodie
is a part of London that I had never set foot in. My parents inculcated their sons
that the East End was full of ne'er-do-wells, villains, seedy pubs and back-alley
murders. Of course, mum and dad had never actually been anywhere near the East End. Their assumptions were based upon apocryphal tales of the Krays, the
notorious gangsters that ruled the East End back in the sixties. Fast-forward a
few decades and swathes of East London have been regenerated in the wake of the
2012 Olympics. Walking from Stratford Station to the restaurant on a balmy July
evening, once I’d double-checked neither Kray was waiting to greet me with a smile
and a flick-knife, it was obvious that Hackney is a happening place. Brand new
shopping centers throng with shoppers whilst hipster bars sprout around sports
arenas. Hackney seems the cool place to hang out, which explains why I had never
been here. Like any urban regeneration, decent places to eat play a crucial
part in that. Central London might boast
the most lauded and poshest restaurants, but the capital’s outer zones are
incubators for the next generation of chefs with more cutting-edge, interesting
and often much more affordable cuisine.
The Cornerstone interior
friend, much trendier than this writer and au fait with ‘hot’ places to
eat, suggested we try Cornerstone in Hackney Wick. Cornerstone opened its doors
in April 2018, so like many, it has had to survive the pandemic. Cornwall-born
chef Tom Brown is the man at the helm, former head chef at Outlaws, The
Capital and an alumnus of Nathan Outlaw. Given his birthplace, Brown naturally
gravitated towards seafood. He was featured as a competing chef on the Great
British Menu TV show where he was a finalist in 2018. The restaurant is named
after his favourite song by the best indie group of the last 20 years, the
Arctic Monkeys. Good thing his fave wasn’t “Mardy Bum”.
Chalk stream trout pastrami
great to see Brown himself during our meal: a stocky young man with requisite
tattoos on each arm, Brown came to our table twice to explain the dishes. That
personal touch is something that happens too little these days. It is a modest-sized,
single-floor interior, spartanly furnished with exposed brickwork and hanging
plants, a central bar area serving cocktails and spirits and overlooking the
kitchen. Loud music was playing as I entered, which might put off some seeking
a quiet or romantic evening out. We opted for the chef’s selection, around five
or six dishes for £70.00 per person, a pretty decent price given the
three-figure sums charged elsewhere, though doubtless pricy for Hackney. The
ethos of Cornerstone is casual fine dining, using British ingredients with
Asian and European twists. We were advised to share the dishes, and I would say
that if you are feeling famished or seek hearty/meat-based fare, you would
better be served elsewhere.
Pickled oyster, cucumber, horseradish and dill
commenced with a couple of delicious choux buns filled with mackerel pâté, then
half-a-dozen slithers of Chalk stream trout pastrami cured in mustard seeds,
nice and firm in texture and oozing in flavour, a simple but effective way to
begin. This was followed by a brilliant pickled oyster decorated with cucumber,
horseradish and dill. These are some of the best bivalves I have encountered
this year, and the seasoning was absolutely spot on, enlivening the senses but
wisely going easy on the horseradish. But Brown was just getting started.
Sea bream tartare with egg yolk, Japanese nori and soy
bream tartare with egg yolk, Japanese nori and soy worked a treat, and I felt
was supremely well executed. Again, it was cold and fresh, the soy not overly
salty or strong so that it might overwhelm the fish, the yolk lent it texture
and the seaweed the crucial tang.
Cured gurnard, Ajo Blanco, smoked almond, green apples, celery and grapes
was followed by cured gurnard, one of those fish Brits look down their noses upon,
but tastes as good as “posh fish” we pay triple the price for. This was part of
an Ajo Blanco, ostensibly gazpacho without the tomato, here with smoked almond,
green apples, celery and grapes. The combination was divine, light and vibrant,
perfect for a hot evening when the last thing you want is to be working your
way through heavy rich cuisine. There was a lightness of touch that I adored,
its simplicity disguising (again) the deft execution.
Crab bun with fennel kimchi and gooseberry hoisin
its heels came a crab bun with fennel kimchi and gooseberry hoisin. Perhaps the
most unusual dish, it was basically an extremely good bao that worked well with
the kimchi. Maybe the gooseberry hoisin could work better partnered with
another dish? Here I found it delicious but surplus to requirements.
Colston Basset, oyster Bordelaise, carrot and parsley
finish, we enjoyed a wedge of Colston Basset blue cheese that was flanked by a
tart of oyster Bordelaise, carrot and parsley. Here, I might give the fromage
it’s marching orders so that I could focus on the tart. The two did not quite
gel together – perhaps I’d prefer one or the other. The baked cheesecake with
peach and raspberries was a winning conclusion: beautifully balanced with a
gorgeous strawberry ice cream.
Baked cheesecake with peach, raspberries and vanilla
we were offered reasonable corkage, I decided to go for the wine pairing menu
that is available for £70 per person. The list is not an enormous, but it
strives to cover most bases between Old and the New World. Naturally, given the
menu’s bias, it leans towards whites rather than reds. I must commend the
sommelier here. Often I feel that the sommelier either doesn’t really know what
they are talking about or reeling off factoids by rote. But the chap here really
knew his stuff.
began with a safe bet, the NV Brut Reserve from Charles Heidsieck.
This is similar to my previous bottle with that pretty, slightly leesy nose,
the palate fresh and well-balanced, quite malic towards the finish with a touch
of orange rind on the aftertaste. Nothing spectacular – but it does the job. Next
came the 2020 Gewürztraminer from Franz Haas. I was not so taken
by this, even though I am a fan of the grape variety. It provides the requisite
lychee and pineapple scents on the nose, yet lacks some definition. The palate
has weight and density, a touch of viscosity, decent length, but it just misses
a bit of verve. For me, it is a slightly awkward match as it just lacks the
tension required. The 2019 Riesling Winkel Kabinett Trocken, from
Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau, works slightly better, with quite
a pungent petrol nose that makes up for its lack of complexity. The palate has
a pleasant dryness that matches the cured gurnard, though you could argue that
it doesn’t quite deliver the flintiness found in a Riesling of higher pedigree.
Still, it has a pleasant malic bite, even if you won’t remember what it tastes
like the following day.
best wine is the recently released 2021 The Landscape Series Elodie,
pure Chenin Blanc from Gabrielskloof, a Cape stalwart rejuvenated by
Peter-Allen Finlayson of Crystallum fame. Nervy on the nose, this has focus and
drive, a more Zen-like expression of the variety with plenty of vigour. The
palate is beautifully balanced, with a very appealing spine of acidity and a
twist of sour lemon on the finish, this is the one wine where I could have
ordered another glass. We finished with a Sauternes, one that I am unfamiliar
with. The 2016 Delmond is actually a label from Château Laville in the
commune of Preignac. It acquits itself well with pleasant lemon verbena and
orange blossom scents on the nose, the palate sporting a pleasing viscosity,
though not great complexity given the vintage. Yet, there is purity here, and it
does its job with the minimum of fuss.
is the kind of restaurant that I am seeking more and more these days: either
waiting patiently for a Michelin star or recently in receipt of one, yet
unburdened by the accolade. As a showcase for Tom Brown’s culinary skill,
Cornerstone works perfectly. Every dish was flawlessly presented and executed,
offering a pleasing bandwidth of flavours and textures along a piscatorial
theme. There is no pretension here - just extremely assured cooking. I do feel
there is a bit of improvement that can be made with the wine selection. It’s
not bad, but there is definitely room for more Spanish wines, particularly
Galician or why not even a dry white Bordeaux. Surely they are missing a trick
in not serving one of many superb English wines to kick off?
Out of Five.
Tom Brown will get that.
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