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Art & Culture / The Hunger

Upstairs at the Cat and Mutton

In this column, Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink uncover the secret pleasures of the gastronome

Smoked haddock with charred leeks
Smoked haddock with charred leeks Photography by Neil Wissink

The Hunger heads to the Cat and Mutton, east London's historic pub, newly revamped by Tom Gibson of Ruby's cocktail bar and offering sharing plates galore as well as a plethora of flavours from across the globe

The Cat and Mutton has long been known for over-spilling its trade onto busy Broadway Market. And though it’s been active as a pub for 300-odd years, of late its popularity seems more to do with its desirable east London location than anything else. All that is set to change as new owners have revamped the food and drinks menu, and launched a comfortable dining room and cocktail bar – called Pearl’s – in the formerly underused upstairs.

Behind the new venture is Tom Gibson, the proprietor of beloved Ruby’s cocktail bar in Dalston. Heading up the kitchen is Ben Denner, of Lucky Chip burger van fame, here cooking under his Licky Chops guise and offering much more than street-food essentials. Gibson describes the menu as ‘friendly experimental’ – a good way of explaining the balance struck by Denner, who has free range in the kitchen, but is also set on creating dishes to suit the pub’s genial setting. The result is plenty of sharing plates and a plethora of flavours from across the globe.

"The barbecued octopus with black garlic crème fraîche is a standout dish"

The barbecued octopus with black garlic crème fraîche is a standout dish. Held together by the best baked potato we can ever recall tasting – so good in fact that we pressed the kitchen for their secret, but, unsurprisingly, they’re keeping quiet – it is more than the sum of its parts. Those who like a bit of contrasting sweetness will fall for the burnt broccoli served with yoghurt, pickled mustard seeds and almonds, while the smoked haddock with charred leeks and aioli on toast is a more delicate choice. Denner tells us that ‘nearly 80% of everything that comes out of the kitchen has touched the barbeque’ – and the kitchen is dominated by a long open-flame grill. Using four different types of wood while cooking means that flavours and smokiness vary across dishes. Desserts include a refreshing blood orange sorbet sitting in a glass of prosecco, and strawberries and cream with thick mint sauce, sorbet and meringue – a complex combination of textures with a hint of basil that we’ve dubbed the ‘Hackney Mess’.

With the Ruby’s team behind the cocktails, there is a similar focus on kitchen ingredients to create kinetic flavour combinations such as pisco, cider, lime and chilli for the Parr’s Head; or the sharp and restorative Fiery Mare, made with gin, Kamm & Sons, cucumber, wasabi and lemon; while the Alfred’s Porter ­– cognac, stout, honey and oyster sauce, tastes like a boozy Horlicks to be had at a Gentlemen’s club. Fitting too, as though the main floor of the pub retains its lively and youthful atmosphere, the woodsy and plush upstairs is proof that the Cat and Mutton has grown up.

The Hunger visited the Cat and Mutton on Tuesday 8 April at 7pm. 76 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ, 020 7249 6555.

Text by Ananda Pellerin

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