What's the draw
Detractors might say this new-school East London eatery is a treasure trove of hipster tropes – an all-natural wine list, house-made sourdough, downstairs bottle shop, later-than-late-night opening hours – but that's exactly why this food-forward, refined and ambitious addition to Hackney's thriving food landscape is enjoying some well-deserved time in the sun.
What to drink
Wine, wine, then more wine. The Laughing Heart's larger-than-life owner Charlie Mellor started out as an opera singer (yes, really), but between then and now he worked his way up through the restaurant scene as a sommelier in his native Australia and London. This means the wine and food share centre-stage, and your best bet is to ask him or a waiter to match some glasses of eclectic low-intervention wine with your food. We enjoyed a 'Táganan' from Tenerife-based winemaker Envínate using local grapes, which had a crispness, levity and requisite level of funk; and a richer 'Palmiet' pinot noir from JH Meyer in South Africa, all luscious, slightly tart red berry notes.
What to eat
Head chef Tom Anglesea is building quite a reputation, and with good reason: a restless attitude towards menu preparation culminates in food that, like the wine, is anything but inert, with the whole menu changing almost entirely each week. Dishes tend to be simple, built around four or so key ingredients that hold a delicate balance while punching at the five main taste centres: case in point, creamy, unctuous langoustines in a slick of ash oil and yuzu-infused cream, and the umami and sweetness of parsnips, pears and yeast mousse. Elsewhere, olives stuffed with a laab-like fragrant minced pork concoction and oyster topped with nam jim dressing were the most outright of the Thai and other East Asian flourishes that spike many of the dishes. The best way to experience all of this is the Carte Blanche menu, a tasting menu of sharing plates priced at £39 per person. Hope, if not pray, that it still includes the show-stopping tarte tatin by the time you get there.
Small plates from £3; wine from £6 by the glass. 277 Hackney Road, E2 8NA; thelaughingheartlondon.com