There is something hugely satisfying about finding a hidden gem- especially one that you have walked past hundreds of times yet never assumed to be anything special . The Bridge just under the Hoxton railway bridge is exactly that. In fact this, from the outside rather dodgy looking bar, has been on my daily walk home every single day but until a few weeks ago never enticed enough to visit. Why? Well from what I could gather from the outside it looked like the kind of place you wouldn't want to go in wearing a floral crown and Taj Mahal print dress especially with some of the odd looks I received from behind the bar. As it turned out the Bridge is one of those places to not judge on first appearance and indeed the ground floor of it turned out to be rather different to the magical hidden space on the first floor. I have to thank my friend Steve for dragging me there who in his expertise of the area still remains way ahead of me having lived there for quite some time and had my full trust when he suggested the place, coining it as somewhere I would love despite my obvious reservation.
Drinks served here are cheap, simple and good ( think rum hot chocolate, a big glass of white wine for under a fiver and a large number of European beers), but really you don't come for the drinks as a little wander upstairs reveals something akin to a princess's boudoir. Extravagantly upholstered arm chairs, fabrics draping from the ceilings and an array of old and mismatched tables, clocks and lamps made me immediately fall in love with the Bridge's eccentric and completely other worldly atmosphere. In a town where crazes come and go and overhype is often the name of the game many restaurants and bars end up following the same formulas ( how many more exposed brick downtown NY style interiors can we see) and looking pretty generic, the Bridge is a welcome peculiarity that it was worth discovering and a hidden drinking den everyone should try
I am a creature of habit and convenience when it comes to eating out, long passed the phase of being prepared to queue for a burger ( which probablyexplains why I haven't had one in a good few months)and not easily convincedto venture into an unfamiliar part of London, particularly on a Friday evening after a long week at work. However after my friend Isabella had for weeks tried and failed to convince me to make a journey to Hackney Wick, which to me wasuntil then like a foreign country despite in fact not being really far at all onthe overground, she finally persuaded me to make the trip to try one of herlocal favourites Crate and thank god she did. Hackney Wick has of coursebecomeknown for it's many warehouse conversion filled withyoung creative twentysomething's from around the world and Crate definitely has a bit of that vibegoing for it too. In an old brewery and by the canal, it's location is prettystunning. Despite the freezing temperatures we sat by the canal and HackneyWick's industrial charm, the water shimmering with reflections,and a bustlingatmosphere made it aunique and enchanting place to enjoy a dinner.
That is notto say that it's coolness over substance. In fact Crate's short menu centredaround a few pizzas delivers on all fronts. Stone baked and served on solidwooden slaps, these pizzas are far from your average margahrita. We tried thesweet potato, blue cheese and walnut variation which was complex in flavour butworked beautifully in its sweet and saltiness as well as the chicken laksa one,on paper a rather odd sounding concoction of chicken, laksa sauce and mushroomsbut upon sampling surprisingly moorish with a fiery hint of chili. Wines arewell priced and perfectly matched to the pizzas and service is friendly andwelcoming. Whether you sit inside where a DJ regularly provides a good musicalbackdrop or brave the cold on one of the benches and tables by the canal ( Irecommend bringing a blanket to experience the amazingsetting), Crateimmediately won me over and made the trip out of my usual comfort zonedefinitely worth it. Hackney wick, you will see me again.