When it comes to restaurants these days, our social media feeds are littered with OTT interiors, clickbaity dishes, and drinks overflowing with far too much dry ice and not enough flavour. As someone whose phone always eats first, it’s easy to get carried away with style over substance. But one restaurant that doesn’t compromise on either? Cornerstone.
Spearheaded by award-winning chef Tom Brown, the seafood-centred Hackney Wick destination has earned Michelin star status, while its founder came to prominence after appearing on Great British Menu and has since been named as GQ Chef of the Year. Instantly recognisable as the face of this restaurant, Brown was front and centre on the Thursday evening that we visited, working his magic in the statement open kitchen.
The decor gives a moody vibe from the off, with tattooed chefs at work in a pared-back setting that’s tied together by wooden chairs, exposed lightbulbs and mismatched art. This is certainly not Mayfair Michelin. Utensils are long and slender, from the delicate wine glasses to modern gold cutlery. As for the tunes? Think neo should and hip-hop blending into contemporary R&B.
Our seafood journey began with a couple of bite-sized mackerel boquerones (£9.50) and thick doorstop bread that came matched with sustainable farmed chalk stream trout pastrami (£9.50), butter with miso paste. A simple start, this laid the foundations for two oysters (£6) - fresh but not fishy, and beautifully presented with droplets of green and globs of white… so pretty I had to take a photo - or five - before tipping back. Then there was the wine; moving from a mellow Italian style from Castello di Cigognola over to a German Gewurztraminer.
The sea bream tartare (£19.50) came highly recommended by our waitress; an intriguing mash of yuzu, miso, honey and a cured egg yolk that hit the back of our throats with a kick of salt. Then there was the crab bun (£24) which we pulled apart and smothered with bitter leaf kimchi and English plum hoisin.
If you’ve ever scrolled past Cornerstone on Instagram, chances are you’ve drooled over their towering crumpets that garner thousands of likes. If not? Let me introduce you. Our Lincolnshire poacher crumpet (£17.50) came loaded with beetroot, walnuts and a chunky layer of cheesy rarebit. Another aesthetically-pleasing plate, it was a mouthwatering pick, although we found the beetroot layer slightly too sweet. Ending on an unexpected high, it was the fresh quince (£16). I didn’t think much when I saw it on the menu, but it was poached then finished with citrus and cream for a deliciously tarty mouthful that was sweet and sour at the time. Gorgeous.
The DesignMyNight Digest
A must for seafood lovers, Cornerstone is the ultimate stop-off for those of you looking to elevate your game. Doing away with the stuffiness that YOU think of when you hear 'Michelin,' the team have created a proper East London gem.
💰 The damage: the chef’s selection is £75 and wine pairings are £70 per person.
📍 The location: 3 Prince Edward Road, London E9 5NP.
👌 Perfect for: seafood lovers.
⭐ Need to know: go a la carte for a Michelin taste on a budget.
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