254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
WLC Rank : 119
Glass from : £ 4.50 (125 ml)
BEST FORHandsome old East End pub
Enthusiastic approach to drinks
Brilliantly edible dishes by former St. John chefs
“We do not want to challenge people with a list full of wines you need to be briefed on before you can enjoy them,” says Jon Rotheram who runs The Marksman with co-owner, co-chef and joint former alumnus of St. John, Tom Harris.
“Our wines mirror our ingredients, so we love small, family producers, valuing organic wines which haven’t been heavily processed,” says Jon Rotheram, co-owner and co-chef, with Tom Harris, of Hackney Road’s The Marksman.
Dishes show a love of simplicity and are served under the pavement in the private cellar room, the spit-and-sawdust public bar above where Foster’s remains on tap to appease long-time locals, or the Italian-designed multi-coloured upstairs dining room. Begin with black velvet or a coupe of homegrown fizz alongside wholeheartedly baked black treacle sourdough with practically lascivious butter. “We’ve beautiful bubbles with brilliant depth from Raimes in the South Downs,” says Harris. Continue with starter of bulbous mussels and sea beets on toast, then serve yourself and a guest or two slices of outstanding chicken and chanterelles pie using an antique fork, with a decadent side of crisp, fried potatoes and caper mayonnaise. Finish with brown butter and honey tart, or chocolate puff with crème fraîche and hazelnut, possibly with a glass of Somerset Pomona.
“We have fun playing with pairings behind-the-scenes,” says Rotheram. “Over the World Cup, we cooked up a proper chicken curry with sourdough roti, pairing it with a pure Alsatian Riesling (Pierre Frick). It was fun to see such a wine lover’s wine served in a relaxed setting. I think people can get hung up on the ‘rules’ of wine and I’d rather just see everyone having a good time.”
Extremely limited cellaring space helps keep things interesting, notes Harris. “It means we have a fairly compact list which we change often.” Juggling suppliers can be challenging. “London is bursting with interesting importers and diverse portfolios. We can carry around eight suppliers at any one time, and each has their own strength.”
Rotherham sums up his approach to drinkability. “We do not want to challenge people with a list full of wines you need to be briefed on before you can enjoy them. The key thing is deliciousness above all. The kind of bottles you want to enjoy over again, with a few surprises and hidden gems along the way such as Claus Preisinger’s Puszta Libre!” Rotheram and Harris chill the juicy blend of Zweigelt and St. Laurent from Austria’s Burgenland. “Obviously, in wine crowds we’ve been glugging chilled reds for ages, but in an East End boozer it’s still a surprise to many,” says Harris. “A bottle of that on the terrace in the summer will convert any naysayer and is a nice intro to what can be an unfamiliar grape and region!”
When not at The Marksman, you are likely to find Rotheram and Harris enjoying Brawn, P. Franco, Lyle’s, or, for breakfast, Raw Duck.
By Douglas Blyde.