Tattooed topless men strumming guitars, sunglasses bigger than faces and tonnes of teeny tiny dogs - London Fields is almost parodical East London. And as lovely as Broadway Market is, come the weekend you can barely breathe for folk laden with organic cheese and artisan bread. Before you give up on the area though, there is a solution: Mare Street, a road that's experiencing a regeneration with quirky cocktail bars and restaurants popping up along its length. Martello Hall is one such place; an old boozer turned stylishly stripped back cocktail bar and restaurant; we headed there for the perfect pairing of a boozy brunch.
Venue and Atmosphere
From Satan's Whiskers through to Mother Kelly’s and Sager and Wilde on Paradise Row, Mare Street reads like a gossip magazine of hot names at the moment. Martello Hall is right to join their ranks, moments from London Fields, the building is close enough to the ‘influencers’ and posers of London Fields without being too full of carefully angled I-phones. Popular with the hot desking crowd during the week, Saturday brunch is buzzy and busy with arty East London types, families and a few low-key birthday parties.
The restaurant may have a history closer to old man boozing (it’s in the former spot of the London Fields Pub) but with three gorgeous storeys of vintage-style interiors, it feels as regal as its new name suggests.The main bar is a floor-to-ceiling high construction of plain pine wood; a rickety wooden ceiling fan looks like it’s been salvaged from a deep south detective movie, and walls are a mottling of white and sea blue that create a breathy, open space. The entire building is like a paper concertina that seems to endlessly unfold into pretty rooms.
Food and Drink
Martello Hall is a disciple of Italian food in its truest form - with a few fresh and easy ingredients. Using a huge domed, wood-fired oven, pizzas are baked until the base is the perfect blend of crispy and doughy, and cheese toppings melt into slurpable pools. Along with pizza, brunch at the restaurant includes twists on favourites, such as bacon sarnies slathered in 'nduja ketchup, and fried chicken with watermelon and jalapenos.
Torn between pretty much every dish, I finally settled on chef’s meatballs (£12), a rich dish of garlicky pork balls in a thick 'nduja tomato sauce, which I mopped up with a Parmesan and rocket pesto pizza bread. Italian baked eggs (£9) were just as consoling after a night out as eggs were baked in the same tomato sauce and accompanied by wood roast potatoes and spinach.
Any venue worth its salt seems to be serving bottomless brunch at the moment - a girl gotta have her morning drink, right? - and Martello Hall is no different. For £20, the bottomless option gave us two hours of frizzante, fresh juice, mimosas and a tropical rum punch. Normally rum punch spells ‘whatever is in the cupboards at a house party’, but Martello Hall’s mix is a proper cocktail, topped with fruit and with a alcoholic kick to finish.
Taking a short detour from London's busiest spots is always worth it, especially when they come like Martello Hall. Interiors are gorgeous enough to have their own dedicated Instagram page, the food is easy and utterly delicious, and the staff are completely lovely.