What's the draw?
Pass by Lucky & Joy and it's hard not to be drawn in by the siren call of the restaurant's playful interior design. The mood lighting languidly shifts from hues of bruise-ish blues and purples to hotter pinks and violets – and if that's not enough to get you through the door, the equally colourful plates coming out of the open kitchen should be. Having taken over the space previously occupied by Mavish Mangal Kebab, chef Ellen Parr (previously of Moro and Morito) and drinks don Pete Kelly have brought their peripatetic pop-up to its first ever permanent home. Located just a few doors down from P. Franco, serving a riff on Chinese cuisine that's perfect for soaking up a few glasses of quality wine, Lucky & Joy's presence on Lower Clapton Road is much appreciated.
What to drink?
Natural wine, inventive cocktails and trendy tinnies make up the brunt of the drinks list. We favoured the middle child on our visit and ordered a matching pair of Szechuan Negronis, a serve that combined gin, campari, Punt e Mes and sichuan oil to deliver the usual alcoholic punch you'd want and expect from a negroni as well as a subsequent flavour haymaker from the addition of lip-numbing pepper. It's an addictive and drinkable cocktail that you'll find going down a lot faster than you might have otherwise intended. Which is only ever a good thing in our books. My dining partner – a dyed-in-the-wool negroni skeptic – said it was the best they'd ever had.
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What to eat?
Plates come hot and cold, big and small, and the best tactic is to order a melange from each temperature section to get an even spread of the proceedings. Pickled peanuts are a perfect bar snack and make a great appetiser alongside portions of Yunnan smacked cucumbers and sesame noodles. The latter are an essential order: sweet and nutty notes of sesame balancing as dexterously as Simone Biles against Lucky & Joy's homemade chilli dressing. Do, however, make sure to save some of those chilled noods to mix alongside the hot dishes for a contrast of climate and flavour. A festive plate of 'typhoon shelter' brussels sprouts is zhuzhed up with a scatter of dried chillies and delivers enough crisp and crunch to make you forget about any over-boiled sprouts of Christmas past. Dai grilled chicken is plump, juicy and benefits greatly from the sweet herbs (a fantastic farrago of mint and coriander) served alongside. Hunan-style steamed fish dishes change on the reg and are definitely worth your attention – the one we sampled on the night was a two-tone chilli topped fillet of sea bass, a visual nod to Contramar's iconic red and green snapper, and pineapple fried rice, served in the hollowed out carcass of that very fruit, also deserves a place on your table if you've got room: more than just a visual gimmick, the pineapple keeps the fried rice moist and gives it a light acidic lift on the end. Finish with a slice of the custard tart and we can almost guarantee you'll be planning your return visit on the bus home.
Plates from £3.5, cocktails from £7. 95 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NP; luckyandjoy.co.uk