We love having a range of independent restaurants on the street where we used to live, near Victoria Park on the Hackney/Tower Hamlets border. And as the area becomes increasingly popular as a gastroexcursion/ festival destination, we’re increasingly grateful that we no longer live in medias res – i.e. it’s becoming almost too popular.
With Winterville currently residing garishly in the local environs, it’s sometimes tricky to pop down to one of the myriad food spots for a quick suppertime bite without booking and all that malarkey. But, looking for somewhere for an after-school and end-of-term treat – the kids still go to school in the area –Spitjacks, a Portuguesy/ Spanishy restaurant that beats Nandos hands down for flavour and personality, has remained a perennial favourite with the whole family. And at 5.30pm on a weeknight, you’re pretty much guaranteed a table – even since it’s become the haunt of local celebs like Russell Brand, who once wooed Jemima Goldsmith over a chicken thigh here back in the days before he became the nation’s messiah.
Located just across the road from our old house, we’ve been many times over the years, celebrating birthdays – both children and adults – entertained family and friends, enjoyed relaxed Sunday lunches, and taken advantage of the spit roast chicken and roastie take outs on lazy days, which are Spitjack’s specialty.
We love it, and it’s always top notch grub – the kids devour buttermilk chicken and chips, while we all partake in the extensive range of tapas, from sweet sour and salty padron peppers and smoky chorizo, crispy calamari dunked in delicate aioli, or spicy fishcake goujons with a mint and yoghurt dip. Cold meats and bread are sliced on site, and chicken can be split into halves or quarters depending on how many you’re trying to feed, with juicy burgers on brioche for those who like their meat a little redder.There’s enough on the menu to please the fussiest crowd, yet each dish retains the restaurant’s signature character, which perhaps can be summed up as sophisticated rustic – a little like Victoria Park village itself.
This time, given the kids had already devoured my special end-of-term melted snowman marshmallow biscuits, and Jonah had returned from a trip to see the nutcracker with school where he’d eaten an overpriced tub of ice cream, while Ava had been to a leaving do/ Christmas party for her best friend and both were feeling a little over sugared, so we didn’t treat them to their delicious churos and melted chocolate pudding as normal – one is fine between two, if you ask me.
But we left full and feeling festive after just a little light tapas, and a celebratory glass of fizz for me, having had two of my closest local friends (the Reprobate Mums) knocking on the glass of our window seat table to wish us a Merry Christmas. Which is one of the main reasons why I love this restaurant so much – even though we now live on the other side of the park, where generally everything is that little bit cheaper and less gentrified, it still feels a bit like a home from home.
A light meal for four plus drinks cost about £40. The 4 Hungry Tigers rated our meal ****