With a growing population hungry for cruelty-free, plant-based food, it makes perfect sense that well established Sussex-based vegan eatery The Brook moved to Hackney two weeks ago. However, this quirky new restaurant and cocktail bar can certainly hold its own among the plethora of vegan food outlets in the borough.
With exposed brick walls, pink neon lighting, an abundance of potted plants and day of the dead themed pineapple printed panelling, the Brook has a trendy but cosy feel. But this vegan eatery is more than just a pretty face; it does the business when it comes to eating and drinking.
The Brook is all about serving up fresh and fun vegan food and offers an extensive range of interesting cocktails. From Monday to Saturday the menu centres around an evening tapas selection including dishes such as jackfruit quesadillas, tofish bites, beer-battered guac balls and buffalo cauliflower. They have also added a weekend brunch and Sunday evening menu to the equation.
Unlike some of the vegan food places to have popped up across Hackney over the past few years, The Brook’s menu is neither too worthily healthy or overly junk-food laden. It hits the sweet spot satisfying the vegan-serious, the vegan-curious and incorrigible carnivores alike.
Arriving for a quiet Sunday evening meal, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised by the relaxed yet buzzy atmosphere. We started off with two of their signature cocktails. I chose St. Lily, a refreshing prosecco and Lillet Blanc concoction shot through with fresh grapefruit juice and my sister sipped on Sweet Rouge, a creamy and moreish mixture of sloe gin, French cherry liqueur and Galliano.
Other highlights on the cocktail menu we were deliberating between included Smoker’s Delight, a mix of bourbon and grapefruit bitters and Japanese Pickleback, a whiskey cocktail accompanied by a shot of hangover-curing ume pickle vinegar.
The entire drinks menu is 100 per cent vegan, which might not sound like a big deal until you learn that many alcoholic drinks contain animal products. This makes The Brook a welcome addition alongside the growing number of vegan friendly bars popping up across the borough, including The Spread Eagle – Hackney’s fully vegan pub. (You can see the Citizen‘s take on that here.)
For starters we tucked into a plate of seared ‘scallops’ and squash crostini. With their uncannily realistic texture and delicate, seaweedy sauce, the scallops were the stand-out dish of the whole meal. Although as a committed vegan, my sister found them almost unnervingly similar to the real thing.
The squash crostini were also delicious, drizzled with lime sesame pesto, however I wasn’t particularly convinced that the addition of a dollop of vegan cream cheese added much to the dish.
As it was a Sunday we decided to try one of the vegan roasts along with the Cajun fillet burger. The roast didn’t disappoint – loaded up with a generous slice of moreish walnut and cranberry nut roast, sage and onion stuffing, white wine sauced leeks, sweet and spicy red cabbage and plenty of green veg and gravy. Although we were slightly disappointed that it didn’t come with a Yorkshire pudding and the roast potatoes were a bit on the small side.
The Cajun burger also hit the spot with a crispy fried chicken-esque fillet, topped with sweet caramelised red onions, doused in a tangy ranch sauce and accompanied with a generous helping of chunky chips.
We rounded off the meal with the brownie and the banoffee pie. My sister was pleased with her generous slice of brownie – perfectly gooey in the middle, although not rich or chocolatey enough compared to the non-vegan version for my liking. However, the banoffee pie was perhaps one of the best desserts – vegan or not – that I’ve ever had. Clouds of whipped coconut cream topped slices of banana and velvety caramel on a crunchy biscuit base.
A meal at The Brook isn’t the cheapest vegan dining experience you’ll find in Hackney, however it feels like the kind of place vegans and non-vegans alike could happily while away a few hours over a relaxed meal and a cocktail, or two, or three.