Hidden Culinary Gem: The Lacy Nook

Written by: Sophie Taylor

We have been wondering whether or not to share this secret gem with you for a while now.

What if everyone starts going and we can’t just rock up expecting a window seat anymore? What if the secret beer garden gets full up and we can’t sit down for fear of squashing someone’s pug or bumping into Bill from accounts? Or what if our ex starts going and we have to hide behind extra large Negronis?

But then we thought, you’re worth it. Your happiness and gastric satisfaction is more important than our hatred of society. Plus extra large Negronis aren’t that bad. So here goes. Here’s a recommendation you can thank us for in some way soon. Mine’s a Strawberry Collins.

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We took it easy and only ordered four dishes.

Having walked past Cazenove Road on many a drunken occasion, we’d spotted The Lacy Nook A Board luring us inwards with a siren’s call of cocktails and beer garden. But we’d always get the timing all wrong and they’d rarely be open. “Closed at 4am! How ludicrous?” we’d bellow, slurring and swaying up the road. Until now.

Opening last year, The Lacy Nook is a collaboration between two friends, Elena and Jana, who turned to Kickstarter to help them achieve this foodie haven. Think small and large plates of fusion Balkan BBQ, salads and carpaccio alongside a menu of mouthwatering cocktails.

Taking a seat by the window, we’re greeted with a winning smile from Jana gently brandishing a notepad. Apparently she was just listing the menu, but I still believe she was suggesting we ordered all twelve dishes. Regardless, we took it easy and only ordered four.

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Meanwhile along came a bread basket that floated in straight from Macedonian heaven. It’s actually all fresh rolls from local Dalston Bakery, The Dusty Knuckle: delivered warm, crusty and aching for Elena’s spicy ajvar dip. This dip is a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine sauce that’s somewhere between salsa and humous with a chilli kick.

“You just open roast some peppers on a wood plate and then stew them, crushed, you know for seven hours or so…” Jana gesticulates nonchalantly, like we’re going to go straight home and start slicing up some red bell peppers.

We are generously gifted another pot of ajvar after we polish off the first, this time twice the size and raring to spread all over our sourdough. A complementary dish full of Kajmak arrives too: pure, fatty unhomogenized Balkan cream cheese ripe for the spreading.

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First we sampled the well loved beef cevapi

Sipping the last of my white peach Margherita, personally recommended by the hilarious and charming Joana, our dishes begin to arrive. There is hardly enough room for all four on our pretty round table, but do not be discouraged that our pretty round stomachs endured the same fate. We devoured every morsel with vigour, savouring the fusion flavours we’d never tried before. Both a fan of umami tastes, the mixture of Balkan meaty grills with Tom’s Asian limes and miso sprinklings made for two happy palettes.

First we sampled the well loved beef cevapi – mini grilled beef patties from the Balkan which lie somewhere between a sausage and a beef burger so appetising, you’ll wish they were at every BBQ you attend forever more.

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Charred cauliflower waited patiently to be demolished, topped with  kidney bean hummus, pistachio, pomegranate and sumac sprinklings. Our third dish was the beautifully succulent, harissa spiced chicken with date jam, salsa and chickpea mayonnaise to be soaked up, sponge like, by the traditional Balkan breads. Next up was the perfectly roasted aubergine whose jalapeño sauce with miso and tahini yoghurt I am currently attempting to perfect/steal and failing miserably.

I lie awake at night thinking of what might have been with the baked plantain.

Dessert was sprung upon us, with gusto and a back story: beautiful raspberry Baklava made to Elena’s grandma’s original recipe. “She will be spinning in her grave to think of Elena making this” Jana laughs and we wonder if she means with happiness. 

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For what arrived from the kitchen below, beautifully plated and hoisted upwards in the dumb waiter, was delightful. This is no dried up crispy sweet you find at the corner shop next to the cereal bars.

This is layers of saturated raspberry coulis, thick buttered pastry and pistachio crumbles garnished with pretty, edible flowers. It’s moist and rich, not too sickly and doesn’t make me want to down a pint of water afterwards.

Peeling ourselves away from The Lacy Nook was a bitter sweet farewell. For although we were blissfully happy with our choices, I lie awake at night thinking of what might have been with the baked plantain.

It comes with feta, jalapeño sauce and sweet onion tomato salsa and oh the thought of it is making me cry into my lunch box. Plus The Lacy Nook are changing up their menus soon so I might never get to try the baked plantain in all it’s salivating glory. 

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But the real edible flowery garnish on the top of this Balkan cake? Despite it’s pretty facades, beautiful food and plethora of lace, The Lacy Nook is dog friendly. It’s also open on Sundays with a slightly different menu if you fancy more of a fusion Balkan BBQ than a heavy old roast from the pub as per.

Look out for our interview with owners and best friends, Elena and Jana in our upcoming print edition coming out soon, and learn all about the naughty history of The Lacy Nook building.

The Lacy Nook

8 Cazenove Road, Stoke Newington, N16 6BD

Photos by Stylonylon

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