Just over a year ago I wrote a post singing the praises of Rita’s Bar & Dining, then a soul food pop-up doing a roaring trade from its temporary home at Birthdays. Unsurprisingly, the Southern-style small plates proved popular enough to warrant a more permanent home, and Rita’s now exists as a sleek, two floor restaurant on Hackney’s Mare Street. On a recent layover in London, I beelined straight for it.
Sadly there was only enough time to try the dessert menu, but then these are the type of desserts that warrant a late-night ride from Dalston to Hackney (and maybe even a transatlantic flight) in their own right. The comfort food element is still there – hot, fluffy beignets were reminiscent of sugar-dusted seaside doughnuts – but chefs Gabriel Pryce and Andrew Clarke have a proper kitchen to play around in these days, and it shows. Every element of Rita’s winning formula has been amped up several notches, from the optional slick of foie gras on those beignets, to the pig’s head ham noodles and miso aubergine now listed beside Rita’s signature fried chicken roll.
The new restaurant is still only a few weeks old, but with its chic pastel pink countertops and mature new cocktail menu (the popular margarita slushies now come in a medicinal Fernet Branca flavour, for the proper adults among you) it’s clear that Rita’s is all grown up, and tastes even better for it.