Time Out says *****
By Euan Ferguson
Hackney's patterns of immigration have ensured the borough has never been short of decent dining options - as long as you want some of the best Turkish or Vietnamese food in London. Yet the middle-class colonisers who have been boosting the area's property prices for years haven't had much in the way of more traditionally British ingredients to get their teeth into.
A Little of What You Fancy has set out to remedy the paucity of north European flavours by opening on what some people still call Kingsland Waste - amid Turkish grocers, African wedding venues and charity shops.
The furniture at ALOWYF is twee as a pastels pin badge. The furniture is salvaged from a school (it comes with compass-etched graffiti); there are incongruous wooden boxes of lemons and oranges; a cabinet showcases homemade jam; and the restaurant's logo is a Sir John Tenniel-style Victorian illustration. Its name comes from a song by bawdy Hackney music hall artist Marie Lloyd.
The narrow, cosy, candlelit space is run by two friends, Lola Coone and Elaine Chalmers - Lola runs the floor, Elaine moves the pans. Ambitiously, it's open from breakfast (an extensive choice) to dinner, which presents four each of starters, mains and desserts on a quirky clipboard format. Dishes are comfortably British with a few adopted French influences. We started with two scoops of chicken liver pâté with toast and gherkins, and an earthy salad of roast beetroot, Strathdon Blue and pickled walnuts. Both were assembled with care and in generous proportions; our plates had to go back unfinished. Perhaps A Lot of What You Fancy might be a more appropriate name.
Mains were equally unselfishly proportioned - an ashtray-sized smoked haddock fishcake came with tartare sauce and caperberries; plentiful chunks of meat snuggled into the rich gravy of a beef Bourguignon.
Other options included moules marinière, smoked haddock kedgeree with poached egg, sausages with lentils and lemon syrup cake with rose water yoghurt.
No wild forays into the gastronomic unknown, then, but good neighbourhood restaurants don't need to do that. They need to be welcoming and informal (ALOWYF was) and cook things people really want to eat. The menu states all meat and eggs are free range. Everything filled its brief in a reassuringly homemade manner.
The compact drinks list offers a couple of beers from the Kernel microbrewery in Southwark (including London Porter, black as the midnight Thames) and a few wines available by the glass, carafe or bottle. A selection of de rigueur small plates are handy for accompanying a drink.
Despite its subdued frontage, ALOWYF stands out in the Kingsland Road as something different. It won't be too long before the locals catch on.
Time Out says *****
By Euan Ferguson
My lunch and dinner
I think the locals (well all the good ones anyway) have definitely caught on already. I love this place. I'm obsessed with simple, healthy food and eating a lot of vegetables. I love the fact everything is local and beautifully fresh. Nothing has been tinkered about with too much and it all tastes fabulous. A Little of What You Fancy couldn't be more up my street.
I don't think Euan Ferguson has quite grasped how much we've needed somewhere decent in Hackney that serves simple, super fresh and delicious food like this. There's been nothing nearly this good.
I would have been in there badgering them all week but I didn't get paid 'til today. At the first opportunity I popped in to the restaurant and lunch time and picked up three of their fabulous starters to take away. This has been ample for my lunch and dinner.
Bear in mind the plates I've photographed are only HALF of what I had. I already had the other half for lunch - this is how I dished it up from the take-out boxes. It would look far better if Elaine had done it in the restaurant (see above).
• Homemade houmous, smoky baba ganoosh, feta cheese, roasted peppers, olives and rocket that was picked today. With fantastic warm homemade herb flatbread •
• Chicken, pork and thyme terrine with rocket and caper berries and Elaine's homemade hot piccalilli •
French bean, tomato (some I'd never had before - red and green stripey ones), fresh herbs and cornichons •
That was amazing and I'm stuffed now. It's a night in front of the TV for me.
I'm over the moon with my fabulous new local
To read my blog about dinner at A Little of What You Fancy CLICK HERE
Christina Lindsay and The Actor give them 10/10