Lunch and Wine at the very hip Bright in Hackney

For a few years there, I kind of forgot about London. It just hadn’t really been on my radar. I didn’t have anything against the city, but nothing drew me there either. “London? Meh…” would be my official stance, as I’d list the many other place I would rather live in or visit. That stance was based on a surprisingly shallow pool of information on one of Europe’s greatest capitals, information gathered by a very young me on a handful of trips there over a decade ago. That stance changed radically this past summer, when a friend invited me on a long weekend trip to London and I, a bit last minute, accepted. Somewhere between the bread & butter at Lyle’s and the Connaught martini I fell in love and I’ve been back thrice since to indulge in the food, wine and cocktail scenes of this too cool and complex city.

One of my first trips back found me having lunch for 1 at the comptoir of Bright restaurant and wine bar in Hackney. I booked on a recommendation from a close friend and wine lover who frequents a low intervention wine bar called P Franco run by the same team. I arrived to a very hip space with a semi-industrial vibe, stacks of vinyl and wine books lining smooth wooden shelves and framed announcements of past chef collabs reminiscent of vintage concert posters all over. The menu is refreshingly short but meticulously thought out and the wine list is cool AF. Their orange wine section is admirably complete with references from Italy and Slovenia but also Alsace, Languedoc and Penedes. There’s also plenty of interesting stuff available by the glass, perfect for pairings by dish. I started with a Bruno Rochard VDF “Moque Souris” Chenin, a biodynamic and natural beauty full of fresh white flowers, citrus and saline minerality.

One of their signatures favorites seems to be their pizza fritta, a plump little mass of fried pizza dough, crispy around the edges, pleasantly chewy and airy light inside. This is topped with spicy nduja (a paprika-laden spreadable pork sausage from Calabria, quite similar to my beloved sobressada) and a generous dose of creamy stracciatella, sprinkled with fragrant oil and dried oregano. A delightfully simple yet delicious start.

Next came three pretty roast white onions – stuffed, with their caps placed back on – in a creamy pool of something that tasted like smoked cheese. Removing the crisped up little tops revealed a crumbly stuffing of rabbit offal and chestnuts, the mild flavors of which harmonized perfectly with the sweetness of the tender, caramelized onion. The hints of smoky cheese in the sauce added an exciting layer of taste to the ensemble and I particularly enjoyed ladling the stuff into the onions and then taking one big, juicy bite.

As you can imagine, Bright slaps on Instagram and its account is followed by those foodie friends of mine whose opinions I most value. My last dish at Bright was – back in early autumn – by far their most posted and tagged, in part due to its photogeneity but also for its short-seasonality rareness. The September-October wild mushroom craze is a thing, and if you haven’t gotten your ceps, black trumpets and hedgehogs by October (and it happens to be a dry autumn), you might just be shit out of luck. Luckily I got mine, a bit last minute, at Bright with their Hen of the woods & Girolles with garlic parsley and egg yolk dish. No frills here, just some freshly foraged mushrooms, earthy and meaty as hell, sautéed in butter with garlic and parsley, then lain in a bowl and topped with a single, bright orange yolk, sprinkled with salt. One of autumn’s simple pleasures, pairing perfectly with my glass of Cantina Giardino “Paski” Coda di Volpe, a skin-contact beauty from Campagnia with exotic flavors of preserved lemon and turmeric. My kind of pairing.

And finally, a scoop of end-of-summer pear sorbet in a little bowl of jiggly Prosecco jelly. Gliding my spoon through this sorbet felt exactly like moving a knife through the slightly grainy but juicy flesh of a ripe pear. The texture of the thing was spot on. The jelly was entertaining and its mellow wine flavor went nicely with the pear. A refreshingly not-too-sweet dessert.

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