There’s this god-awful misdemeanor in the foodie world, that exceptional chow has to be accompanied by irritatingly invasive service which is annoying-as-hell. There’s also usually some kind of classical composer providing the soundtrack, along with a crazy price tag which totals-up to roughly the same amount you’d spend on your entire family at Christmas. It’s ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the word ‘foodie’. It means that all too often, high-end cuisine is reserved purely for those with fat wallets, in places which are about as relaxing and comfortable as a bed of nails.
Then there’s Mr. Buckley’s on Hackney Road. Your easy-going neighbourhood restaurant which is redefining everything you ever knew about upmarket eating. The space itself is exceptionally chilled and nicely casual …but it happens to have one of East London’s most innovative chefs at the ship’s wheel, and he’s not afraid to sail towards iceburgs, full steam ahead, without lifeboats. Unexpected nautical metaphors aside, what I’m illustrating here is his incredible creativity and daring approach towards offering diners a pretty posh picnic. This dude – Danny Cheetham – isn’t just fresh out of catering college; he comes from a long line of restaurants and projects which are noted for their unorthodox menus and inspired dishes. We’re talking White Rabbit in Dalston – the Willy Wonka of eateries. Also he was part of the Psychic Burger clan – the guys who made a name for themselves by producing memorable, tasty burgers in an overly-saturated burger-obsessed city. This guy is to food, what Mr. Miyagi was to the karate kid: the ingredients are all there, you just need a master to make them amazing.
…Unexpected 80’s film references aside, here’s how we found our night out at Mr. B’s. The owner Phillip told us about how he’d had his Mr. Buckley’s-themed epiphany whilst sipping on a coffee in Brooklyn’s famous Five Leaves cafe. He explained that it was more about the vibe of the place which won him over. A neighbourhood eatery with amazing food, friendly service, great coffee and a laid-back atmosphere. This was to be the blue-print for what he’s now delivering in East London. I can see a residual lasting impression that the aforementioned NYC trip had on Philip, as the Brooklyn-cool interiors in this London restaurant are simple but awesome. It’s right up my street. Stripped-back brick walls, simple furniture and details like neon signs and beautiful lamps make this place exceptionally stylish.
I perused the menu. The only dish I was familiar with was the burger. All other dish titles and descriptions read like my GCSE English study novels; I didn’t really understand them, I wasn’t really familiar with a lot of what was being said …but they sounded really impressive. The beautiful excerpts from the menu left me confused, but with a piqued curiosity. The most expensive item on it …was twelve quid. What the hell? The menu is designed around small plates to share, with a recommendation of three or four dishes between two. We decided to play Mr. Buckley’s menu roulette – it’s a thing. At least, it should be. We didn’t make any decisions, except that Danny could send out whatever he wanted us to try. Seven different offerings followed, and we finished every scrap of every dish.
Let me translate some of what we ate for you.
Bacahau croquettes and nduja aioli. These awesome breaded potatoe-y numbers were a perfect start to the evening. Light, flavoursome and borderline comfort food – they offered a far classier take on our childhood school canteen croquettes. A great dish. Then, there was the salmon, peach and radish ceviche with avocado. Sweet mother of good food, this dish was ridiculous. The balance of flavours and textures were perfect, with a unique pairing of peach and salmon. Good God, Mr. Buckley’s. Then, the onglet with charred spring onions, sweet potato & smoked yoghurt. This rustic wooden board with rich, pink medallions of tender meat and an array of accompaniments and flavours showed up and totally seduced the hell out of me. That was, until I had the butter fried chicken with fresh jalapeño & honey butter. So good, I spontaneously uttered something along the lines of “What the F…Buckley’s” …or something. This chicken. Is like no battered chicken I’ve ever had. The meat was so tender and juicy, it was buttery. Which makes the name all the more appropriate. The batter was sweet, crispy, slightly spicy and wholly mind-blowing. Post-chicken-consumption, I felt moved to tears by what I’d just experienced.
We finished off with a really tasty, light tonka bean chocolate pudding with oranges & amaranth dessert, rounding the whole night off perfectly. At this point, Danny made his way through the restaurant and I had to stop myself from applauding him.
“Alright?” he said casually, with a thumbs up. Yes, mate. I am alright. You’ve helped create a freaking dream machine. A menu which lives up to the hype of the awesome venue, killer playlist, cool staff and chilled vibe …with price tags which won’t leave me eating beans for the rest of the month. Consider Mr. Buckley’s as having officially been bumped-up on our ‘Awesome London restaurants’ list.