I hadn’t seen James 2 in ages. He’d moved out last year to pursue a doomed romance, and, after a very dramatic few months, had ended up living in Hoxton. I’d last seen him at his 27th birthday party a couple of months ago, though that barely counted as I was irretrievably off my noggin by 9:30pm and had to be carried to bed in disgrace.
So, a catch-up was long overdue. Given that I live opposite a prison and James 2’s new stomping ground was just around the corner from Colombia Road’s famous flower market, we decided to spend the afternoon in East London and have a long, boozy brunch at Canto Corvino, which proved to be the perfect venue in which to live vicariously through James 2 and his…let’s say energetic social life. (I spent the following evening researching garlic pickle recipes and bookmarking blog posts on loft conversions, so frankly there are people in nursing homes with more going on than me at the moment.)
I arrived to find him sitting at the bar, sipping and iced coffee and flirting outrageously with a barista whose skin was so smooth and perfect I wanted to peel it off and eat it. The bar itself is good-looking with or without the beautiful barista, very Spitalfields (i.e. the designer of All Saints stores would approve), with a refined warehouse feel and big windows that were that day flung open to let in the sunshine.
Canto Corvino specialises in modern Italian, but its menu has a creative streak seldom found in your average trattoria. We tried the new brunch menu (hiding in the Offers section of the website, if you’re looking), which includes two courses and bottomless prosecco – very decent prosecco too – for £35. The five food options per course were carefully and creatively considered – and included meat, fish and vegetarian options.
I couldn’t resist the Lamb Ribs with Smoked Aubergine puree for my first course, which, gratifyingly, arrived off the bone, the meat practically shredding itself after a good char on the restaurant’s own Josper grill. I swirled it all up in the aubergine puree like it was pulled pork in BBQ sauce, so each mouthful contained tender meat, chargrilled crispy bits, silky liquid aubergine and a smattering of sesame seeds. It was sensational. I made a mental note to have a go at pureeing an aubergine in my Nutribullet when I got home. (It would be nice to make something in it that isn’t hummus or Pisco Sours.)
(Side note: these ribs are served as a small plate for £7.95 on the a la carte menu, so you don’t even need to go at brunch time to try them.)
Knight’s Burnt Asparagus with Jerusalem Artichokes and Summer Truffles was light and summery, but could have been a little more substantial. It’s certainly the pre-holiday option (whereas the lamb ribs are for people who’ve got their holidays out the way and are already fattening up for winter, like me).
Our waitress, who knew a good gossip session when she saw one, asked us if we wanted to wait a bit for our ‘mains’, which allowed us to have a little breather and sip on another glass of chilled prosecco.
When they arrived, my Avocado Piadina turned out to be a sort of pizza – a big, round flatbread smeared with avocado, peppered with chillis and liberally strewn with gobs of milky stracciatella, which tastes like mozzarella but has a dreamy consistency similar to ricotta.
Three of the options for the second course are fishy, and Knight opted for the luxurious Smoked Salmon Brioche with Burrata, Onions and Capers.
There’s an impressive array of pastries on offer, but who needs pudding when you can have some more bubbles? After a last glass we decamped for a potter around the flower market, where I scored an enormous potted lily for £4.00 (4pm is bargain o’clock), and bought a fancy fountain pen and some purple cartridges from a beautiful but pretentious stationery shop called Choosing Keeping on Columbia Road. (I’ve been roped into writing 160 place settings in nice handwriting for a friend’s wedding, so thought I’d better tool up.) After making my purchase I tried to take a photo of a beautiful display of wrapping paper but was told, rather sourly, that photography wasn’t allowed. Bloody Hoxton.
Canto Corvino, 21 Artillery Lane, London, E1 7HA
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.