Those two combined make it hard to find the right date and time... however I made it happen last week with a visit to Rita's in Hackney.
After a successful run as a pop-up in 2012, Rita's have found their permanent stomping ground and opened the doors on Mare Street late last summer.
The vibe is laid back, fun and hits the perfect mix of trendy without being try hard. You could rock up in a ball gown or pyjamas and nobody would bat an eyelid...it's basically a chic cafe minus the grease!
The menu is one made for sharing and jam packed full of a wide variety of cuisines and flavours. You get anything from Fried Chicken to Spiced Noodles with Pig Head Ham...quirky but delicious! Personally, I love a menu like this, making it a bit more exciting with an element of not really knowing what will arrive in front of you.
On our visit the dishes were bursting full of Asian favours with coriander, chili, garlic and ginger being main contenders but then paired with goat and ox cheek. As I mentioned, interesting combinations but don't be scared - everything we opted for was very tasty and the flavours were incredible.
The exterior doesn't give much away with a small shabby shop front with only a glowing sphere light outside emblazoned with Rita's to confirm that you have arrived. As you walk in you are hit with an impressive aroma which instantly made my stomach rumble. The decor is modern and simple but true to the Rita's ethos - unfussy...it's all about the food!
Sharing menus are always hard to gauge but I would say 2 - 3 dishes per person would be ideal. We picked a couple of mains and sides to ensure we had enough room left for dessert...I strongly recommend you do the same!
First up the steamed sea bream with ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chili - simple fish cooked perfectly but with incredible punchy flavours fighting through...a true party in your mouth!
We couldn't resist going for the green chili mac & cheese which didn't disappoint...calorie central but wickedly moreish with a bold kick from the chili...
Maybe not something I would usually order from the menu, however we'd heard rave reviews about the Miso Grilled Aubergine and Mushroom Toban, so we decided to go with it. Once again amazing depths of flavour, textures and also nice to have a lighter meat/fish free option to throw into the mix...
We also couldn't resist ordering a side of the fried potatoes - basically mini mouthfuls of the perfect crispy outers and fluffy inners - everything a potato should be! All topped off with a garlic mayo drizzle and spring onion - nothing unusual but a delish side...
Finally seeing as we'd saved ourselves (!!), we got our pudding order in quick smart...two of the legendary ice cream sandwiches! Toffee ice cream wedged between 2 of the most delicious cookies...crunchy yet soft in the middle with ribbons of chewy marshmallow throughout. Something only dreams are made of...
All the above with a cocktail and glass of red came to £25 each - superb value for such delicious food with immense flavours...we left very happy diners.
I've heard on the grapevine that they also do a killer brunch...one for the little black book I think...I shall keep you all posted my friends!