The Vincent is a new venture from the guys behind the Sebright Arms in Shoreditch, which I remember fondly from my formative years as a Londoner because pioneering proper burger company Lucky Chip were in residence there. (Kids, you may scoff but in 2013 the pinnacle of the London burger scene was the 24-hour McDonalds around the corner from Heaven nightclub.) To this day my housemate James 1 insists Lucky Chip makes the best burgers in town, and although I don’t like to make such blatant favourites, I have fond memories of the ingenious traffic light ordering system they had in place. (An actual traffic light. When a batch of burgers were nearly ready the light went green and there was literal bun fight at the bar to get one ordered.)
The three guys behind the Sebright Arms seem to have learned a lot from Lucky Chip because they went on to set up Bunsmiths, a barbecue-inspired burger brand currently in residency at another of their properties, The Miller in Borough Market. (Lucky Chip went on to pop up all over London, like burger acne, and has actually just returned to the Sebright Arms again this year.) This incestuous to-ing and fro-ing of collaborations and pop-ups and residencies is all very complicated, but all you need to know for the purposes of this review is that there’s a new restaurant in Hackney, called The Vincent, and if you live in the area it’s a very agreeable place to while away an afternoon.
Now, whereas the Sebright Arms was once a dilapidated old pub, The Vincent sits at the base of a new build development just across from Hackney Downs station. Obviously the rags-to-riches success story of an East End boozer gone good is a better narrative than the one of the shiny new restaurant below a bunch of £500K+ flats, which is why it doesn’t appear much in the marketing material. But it is still a very good pub, albeit one that sells a lot of quinoa. It has a thoughtful menu and a selection of over 40 beers and ciders, including one from Mikkeller, a ‘phantom’ micro-brewery that doesn’t own its own premises but collaborates with other breweries to make limited-edition, experimental batches. (Sounds familiar…)
All the beers were sadly wasted on me (though lapped up eagerly by the boys), but I did enjoy some summery cocktails (the Queen Of Hearts especially is fruity and light without being too sweet).
The menu consists of healthy grain bowls, many veggie, vegan or gluten-free, and artery-steeling burger-type dishes, all served in glossy brioche buns that reminded me of the tiny varnished ones I once served in my Sylvanian Family dollhouse. The lady who took our order recommended the cheeseburger (£8.00), an especially juicy specimen clearly assembled by a true professional. I was less keen on the the buttermilk fried chicken bun (£8.50) – does anyone else think that batter and bread in one bite is just too much carbohydrate? – but a lot of thought had obviously gone into lubing that sucker up, and the combination of aioli and mango pickle was a knockout. Serve it sans bun and it would be one of the better pieces of fried chicken I’ve tried.
The surprise of the evening were my mushroom meatballs (£8.00). They were woefully under-seasoned – though that’s an easy fix – but it was the type of dish I wish I had the recipe for. It’s food like this that make me think veganism wouldn’t be so bad – the balls were hearty and satisfying, the tomato and red pepper sauce piquant and sweet.
We split a very respectable dark chocolate brownie for pudding, and rolled our way home. Fortunately, Hackney is just a short bus ride away from our new place.
It’s unbelievable to me that some people get to live literally on top of such a lovely neighbourhood gem, especially one that’s just been conjured up in a whirl of bricks and mortar. I, personally, used to live opposite a prison. Actually opposite it. A talented artist could have pissed over the barbed wire fence if he so fancied. We’ve gone up in the world since moving to Stratford, where our house enjoys an enviable position between an awesome Turkish greengrocers that always has, no matter what, the most perfectly ripe avocados (#firstworlddelights) and an ice cream van depot. Which is great and all, but it’s not quite The Vincent.
The Vincent, 2 Atkins Square, Dalston Lane, Hackney, London, E8 1FN
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.