I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon wandering around Columbia road drinking endless coffees while struggling to control the dog and carry the flowers I’ve picked up that day. I love the bustle of the market, the shops and of course, the bargains. On a bright day, I can’t think of many places in London I’d rather be. That said I have often struggled to find somewhere that offers a decent hearty roast, a good wine list and a calm environment to counter the crowds and noise of the market.
Over the 12 years I’ve lived in Hackney, The Marksman has dipped in and out of popularity, offering hit and miss meals to a crowd more interested in the booze on offer. That has all but changed with the recent transformation. Taken over by Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram with over 30 years experience between them, they pride themselves on knowing British cuisine and working seamlessly with seasonal produce.
On entering the Marksman I was pleased to see the classic mahogany and brass fixtures and fittings remained on the ground floor. The Marksman at first sight is still very much a pub with no heritage being lost. However, a trip to the first-floor dining room provides the most unexpected transformation. Spacious, airy, refined and pared back with dashes of artistic flair, The Marksman’s dining room is truly a sight to behold. It’s the result from collaborating with acclaimed Italian artist Martino Gamper. Gamper’s studio have built everything within the space from scratch, right down to the chairs. The restaurant has been fully ‘designed,’ with every aspect of it feeling like a work of art, including the print work that engulfs the ceiling and the distinctly bold floor tiles. Think minimalist Scandinavian style design…but matched with an artist’s eye for style, flair and consistency. This is a very considered space and one that really does offer a calm haven from the chaos below.So aside from my initial excitement at being tucked away in the perfect corner spot of the restaurant where I was then more than pleasantly surprised at the roast dinner I was presented with. It’s not often that everything comes together so perfectly…even The Vegetarian was making all the right noises.
So aside from my initial excitement at being tucked away in the perfect corner spot of the restaurant where I was then more than pleasantly surprised at the roast dinner I was presented with. It’s not often that everything comes together so perfectly…even The Vegetarian was making all the right noises.
I was pushed towards sampling the Beef and Barley Bun and delicious it was too…The Vegetarian welcomed a Chicory, Pickled Pear, Hazelnut and Harbourne Blue, a plate so pretty pangs of jealousy arose in me immediately. Sat delicately in all its shades of off white, it was a little work of art in its own right.
Some other tempting starters included a Cured Beef, a Cured Sea Trout with Fennel and Dill and a salad of Tomatoes, Cornish Anchovy and Little Gem. All deliciously simplistic and considered. I would have ordered extra if only I hadn’t been so set on saving space for the mountain of roast potatoes I’d been assured would be soon arriving.
The menu offered a fair spread across the mains, one fish option of Pollock, Cockles and Sea Beef, followed by a current favourite of Baked Celariac and Spenwood for the vegetarians. Next came three favourite cuts of meat; Roasted Saddleback Shoulder and Apple Sauce, a Roasted Swaledale Lamb and Mint Sauce plus a Roasted Norfolk Chicken and Bread Sauce. Needless to say, The Vegetarian opted for the celeriac and I couldn’t help myself, I caved and went for the lamb (my vegetarian efforts failed me that Sunday!) For me the most important part of any roast are the sides. You want amazing roasted potatoes, a vegetable in a creamy, cheese sauce and most definitely a Yorkshire pudding. Whether I’m eating beef or not, the Yorkshire pudding should be a staple extra. Whoever made up the rule that it only sits alongside a slab of beef must have been mad. Every roast needs a Yorkshire pudding, especially a veggie one!
So did the sides meet our expectations? Absolutely! In fact, I’d go as far to say that although the meat was cooked to perfection, the sides took centre stage. The roast potatoes have the perfect crunchy casing to the fluffy potato inside. Then came the Cauliflower Cheese & Walnut. Indulgently creamy and rich and the perfect addition to The Vegetarian’s plate…another happy customer. There were seasonal greens and carrots on the plate and the option to order buttered Savoy too. Everything pointed to these guys knowing how to knock out a seriously enticing roast. Although the lamb didn’t come with a Yorkshire, it quickly appeared upon request. I can genuinely say that this roast sits miles above any other roast I’d eaten out in East London for a long, long time. This is a step up from the standard pub grub you usually get and we couldn’t be more grateful for the arrival of two men to the area that has clearly mastered the roast.
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254 Hackney Rd, London E2 7SJ