Last month for our book club, we decided to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I thought I was choosing a poetry book for something different, but since I did little (no) research, it turns out we were reading a novel about depression. It was quite an engaging and interesting book, and most people seemed to enjoy it, but a few people found the subject matter too sad. And that’s understandable. Given the subject matter about women, we decided to go to Mazi Mas (which is currently in residency in the evenings at The Russet in Hackney Downs). We chose it because it’s a restaurant that supports women’s rights and female migrants and refugees that find their way to the UK. It’s a great cause, and we felt it would tie very well into the subject matter of the book. If you get a chance, you should read about what they do on their website as it really is great work.
The only downside is that the restaurant is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Okay, technically Hackney Downs isn’t really the middle of nowhere, but it is extremely hard to get to. So after trudging for about 20 minutes after leaving the Overground station, we arrived at The Russet. It’s in quite a cute little area actually, with a lot of artistic stuff around, including a great art gallery which features some art inside of The Russet as well. (Several book club member were really impressed with the art and thought about taking some home!)
It’s quite a simple menu featuring food from all over the world (but primarily Brazil it seems). There were three starters on the menu: Brazilian cheese bread (made with cassava flour so gluten free), Nepalese dumplings and a sharing platter of baba ganoush, muhummara, an herb and barberry frittata, salad and sourdough bread. The mains consisted of a pumpkin or fish curry and feijoadas (a brazilian dish of stewed beans with pork and sausage). The back of the menu shows were everything was sourced, so you definitely know you’re getting some good food. We ordered all the starters to share. I ordered the feijoadas (because I love that dish) while everyone else ordered some form of the curry. I also started with a Negroni which is my favorite way to start (and they did a great job with it as well)!
Personally, I thought all the starters were winners. My least favorite may have been the dumplings. The dumplings themselves (while cooked extremely well) were slightly bland on their own, but the spicy dipping sauce served with it really improved the dish significantly. The cheese bread was a winner for everyone (even if it is gluten free). They are very moreish, and even though we ordered about three plates, I think we could have eaten about three more. The sharing plate was also a hit for me. I loved the frittata, it reminded me of a very similar Persian dish I had when a friend’s mother cooked it for me (although that one was better). The baba ganoush was really amazing and packed full of a lot of garlic. The muhummara was my favorite on the plate though as it was full of spice and heat and had a red pepper sweetness that really worked. I really just wanted a whole lot more of that.
I think everyone also really enjoyed their mains. I tried a bit of the pumpkin and fish, and it was okay for me, but I’m really glad I ordered the feijoada: It was smoky, rich and very enjoyable. The presentation was a bit lackluster, but it’s hard to present a bowl of stew or curry in a really interesting way. I definitely had no complaints about the food. We also decided to order some dessert, and everyone got swayed by the chocolate dessert so unfortunately, the passion fruit dessert wasn’t ordered. I also had to try the espresso martini to go with it.
Dessert was delicious, but very rich. It was a thick chocolate ganache with spiced cream and caramelized pistachios. The pistachios added much needed texture, and it definitely paired well with the martini. Which may have been one of my favorite espresso martinis I’ve ever had. It wasn’t very sweet at all, and it was just like having an after dinner coffee with booze. My kind of drink.
The service was good as well, as the waitstaff were really sweet and friendly. They weren’t the greatest, as there were a few problems throughout, but it’s for a great cause, and I didn’t really care (also they really undercharged us, but we can’t not tell them as they do such amazing work). I personally really enjoyed it, and if I’m ever in the area (which is probably unlikely), I’d definitely come back for the simple, yet extremely tasty food. I think they are doing great work, and I was really glad to come here and share the food with a good group of people.
(in residency at The Russet)
17 Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT