There is something amiss in London. The 2012 Olympics have ended and with the impending autumnal weather upon us, there seems a struggle for reasons to continue the unexpectedly positive spirits that accompanied the Games. It would be easy to succumb to the misery of the daily grind and regress to the eyes-down, dog-eat-dog approach following this rather exuberant period in the City, however, why so?! I implore everyone to resist the urge to relinquish the sense of camaraderie that resided within us as temporarily perhaps as the summer itself (indeed, although the warmth of the sun may have ceased radiating on the skin, we should still exude this from our hearts).

So how to continue the momentum I wonder? There are various pursuits available to the City dweller that can engage us and spread a smile on one’s face; attending the various festivals that are popping up all over (BFI London Film Festival or the Jazz Festival for example… both of which I am already signed up to), taking in a variety of exhibitions, enjoying any form of live music, sharing a beverage with a friend in the cosy confines of a tea room or coffee house and of course, eating out. Oh the joy of eating out! This is perhaps the mostly easily shared pleasure in London, providing sustenance, social interaction and opportunity to experience any number of cuisines all in one sitting. Not many places can boast a range of choice including African, Czech, Mongolian and Vietnamese all within a few streets of each other.

Which brings me to a newly opened establishment that I am quite enamoured with. This is a common problem for me. I fall in love too easily. Namely with restaurants of course (I won’t bore you with my personal life) however my standards are honed to a more experienced level that I now choose wisely enough to rarely be dissatisfied. You will never read about my love for something commonplace. I am quite attracted to the extraordinary and in this case White Rabbit did a grand job of wooing me.

I spied them whilst passing time waiting for a friend in Dalston, and the unobtrusive front lured me in. I sat at their very pleasant bar area and consumed a coffee whilst perusing their menu, vowing of my return to the barman. And so I did. With a Dutchman and an American who both adore good food as much as I do. So let me regale you with my ‘first date’ with White Rabbit.

The staff are resoundingly informative; along with our menus and due to it being our first experience, our waitress explained (without prompting) that all their produce is home made (even the butter) and that all ingredients sustainably sourced. Comforting words to know that a business has a vested interest from ground or field to plate. She continued to explain the menu was a variance of small to medium plates and there was no set deliverance of the courses, it would simply arrive as and when the kitchen finished cooking it. Such welcome knowledge in order to manage expectations, rendering impatience futile (although my Dutch friend who arrived with an empty stomach was a little more tested by this approach than I).

We opted for 3 smaller plates (Chilli & Spider Crab Cakes, Quail with Jersey Royals and Cockles with Mussels) followed by (as and when) 3 larger plates (Rabbit with Summer Beans, Wild Mushrooms with Polenta and Sea Bream with Gnocchi). I also insisted on 2 side dishes of the Waffles and ‘Rabbit Food’ due to the fact it was my first visit, and therefore must incorporate as many options as possible (otherwise known as gluttony).

The Cockles and Mussels were steaming fresh with the magnificent kick of ginger and chilli warming through the lip-smacking sauce. The Crab Cakes were just beautiful, both on plate and in mouth and they were a distant memory as soon as they arrived on the table. The Quail arrived, charred to perfection (no doubt from their wood-burning charcoal grill) with a lick of honey-glaze over the moistly cooked meat with an intriguing rose-petal jam which played a fine companion.

This tickled my tastebuds and my enthusiasm for White Rabbit was increasing. Moans from satisfied tongues were flavouring the soundwaves from our table and I could not contain them. The thorough enjoyment of the food was continued with the arrival of the cocktails which were also met with positive notes from the major scales. I gazed at my Elderflower Collins with coy eyes, a shyness induced by its wonderful first impression, much like my friend’s Crossbow. The spell was broken only by the arrival of the other plates.

The perfectly cooked up polenta had the bed-fellows of so-fresh-you-could-have-plucked-them-yourself mushrooms which continued the positive noises from our table. The Rabbit that arrived with the bean mixture, which was laced with a wonderful truffle oil was also incredible, all the flavours thoroughly complimenting each other. And for me, the pièce de résistance came from the Sea Bream, resting elegantly on gnocchi and spinach, with a slick of orange sauce adding the exclaimation mark to the dish. I was indeed a happy bunny. The sides were not excessive and were a riveting alternative to the usual mixed salad and chips presentation (pomegranate adding a crunchy sweetness to salad leaves and a criss-cross cut providing lovely texture to the potato).

It felt too soon to end the affair that evening so we extended the afterglow to look at their desserts, choosing the Honey, Vanilla Pannacotta and the Gooseberry & Almond tart. I stand by my previous proclamation that it is particularly difficult for restaurants to blunder in regards to sweet offerings. Sugar is an eternally sought after drug however when it is hand-made and in forms that reignite a passion that may have dwindled due to repetitive offerings, it can be quite enlightening. The crunch of my sesame brittle that played tepee to the heavenly creamy pannacotta was thrilling, with a contrasting softness of the Almond and Gooseberry tart, which was well-baked and flavoursome.

Something I noticed very early on in the meal was the lack of condiments in the form of pepper and salt on the tables (applause please). Not often will a restaurant withdraw such offerings due to the unnecessary human weakness for over salting food (although this can’t be help by the common food choices around us). However, White Rabbit has every reason to renounce this culinary crutch through the swagger of its passionate dishes which also rotate and vary, only increasing its allure for further visits.

An entirely well-matched meeting from beginning to end, my evening with White Rabbit confidently confirmed a 2nd date at the soonest occasion.  Already dreaming of my next encounter, this Dalston fixture looks set to be a keeper.

 

 

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