I enjoyed Market Cafe, a bar/restaurant on the corner of fashionably edgy Broadway Market in Hackney. It’s buzzing, it’s low key, it’s reasonably priced and I thought the food was nice. In parts entire experience seemed a bit improvised and it was overall not faultless – possibly due to the fact that Market Cafe has only opened a couple of months ago.
For me, Market Cafe holds a lot of promise. When I saw the menu I was sure the concept could not work: Truffled Welsh rarebit and spaghetti with clams on the same menu? This certainly would result in overcooked pasta drowned in cream sauce, right? I have been a victim of bastardised Italian in “English” restaurants too often, not to have expected a culinary disaster.
I am pleased to confirm however, that Market Cafe does decent Italian and, at the same time, produces tasty British dishes.
It’s not only the food that is strangely mixed. Market Cafe’s interior designers clearly had a hard time choosing a wallpaper, so they just put a different one in every room. Or was it every wall?
The Parmesan Chunks (3.5) that we gorged on while waiting for our starters were, well parmesan. They need to do something about the presentation though, I mean seriously!
The globe artichoke (6) was, well, an artichoke. Nice, but nothing special about it at all. It came served with a blob of lemony mayonnaise on the side. I am not keen on mayonnaise and I would have preferred the artichoke served with something lighter, something that wouldn’t override the beautiful artichoke flavour.
The truffled rarebit (6.5) reminded me a bit of Spuntino’s truffled egg toast, just not as mind-blowingly delicious. Again, presentation was a little bit horrible (the lonely parsley leave on top could not really rescue it) but there was nothing wrong with the flavour at all. Beautiful melting cheese with enough artificial truffle flavour (I mean we don’t expect truffle shavings for 6.5, do we?) resulted in a rather decent dish. The Spaghetti with Clams and Chilli (starter portion 7) were actually al dente and had a nice kick to them, shame that the clams were a bit on the chewy side.
The fish of the day, sole, was beautifully cooked, tender and juicy – at least on one side. We were disappointed however when turning the fish, as the other side was raw. We asked if we could have the fish cooked a bit more, and got a new sole instead! Nice touch, but also with the new sole, one side was not cooked properly… Shame, as the fish was really delicious and so was the buttery spinach it was served with.
The boys had a Steak Florentine with Chips (40 for 2 people). It consisted of generous chunks of medium rare, flavoursome meat and they happily demolished it.
Does Market Cafe set itself apart from other, similar joints? The concept of attempting to ”recreate the spirit of the classic Italian â€œformicaâ€ cafÃ© of the 1950â€™s” is certainly something novel and I liked the atmosphere and the prices. In the end, the food is perfectly fine, but undistinguished. If I had Market Cafe in my neighbourhood, I might very well be a regular. Travelling through London for it though? I don’t think so.
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 6/10
- Ambiance: 7/10
- Value for Money: 7/10
- Chances of Returning: my best friend lives around the corner
- Verdict: Promising Italian-English fusion with room for improvement.