The Laughing Heart is a small plates restaurant offering European style food & specialising in natural & organic wines. Nestled in the middle of Hackney Road East London, it stands out with a homely feel in the most urban area.
On arriving we are greeted by a smiley waitress who shows us to our seats at the bar area overlooking the main entrance. The menu is not too big but has a variety of dishes. We are approached by a tall gentleman in a smart suit with a rather unusual accent. I go for South African. It turns out its part Australian. Accents were never my strong suit. His name is Charlie & he just so happens to be the proprietor. David & I start to pick his brain extensively with regards to the food & wine on offer. It's evident he knows his stuff and takes pride in explaining each dish & wine in great detail. We decide to go for the offer of 4 courses @ £45 and leave Charlie in charge of the all-important decisions.
I start the evening with a glass of fizz. Dinavolno-Emilia-Romagna 2019. Light, fresh & not overly bubbly, it was the perfect way to kick off proceedings. David goes for the Catarratto- Antonino Barraco 2017. A dry white with higher acidity. Light & easy drinking.
10 mins later the first courses arrive. House-cured Ham draped over fresh Melon. The meaty saltiness is cut down by the perfectly ripe sweet melon. The dish is simple but super tasty. The second dish is Chicken Liver Pate served with a Madeira Brioche. Charlie is very keen to see our reaction to this dish (One of his favorites) The pate is so smooth it could easily be mistaken for foie. The smoothness is contrasted by a crispy chicken skin, broken & sprinkled on top. This spread over the thick-cut buttery Brioche is absolute heaven! Sharing this one was a struggle!
Next up we are served Yorkshire Guinea Fowl & Tamworth Dumplings in Broth. The dumplings are small but plenty. With a bit of a bite, they are cooked just right. The strong flavor from the Guinea Fowl is contrasted by the clear broth that is sweetened by a subtle hint of 5 spice.
Our other surprise is Pasta Con Le Sarde. A traditional Sicilian dish of Silky pasta ribbons with sardines & anchovies. The fish gives the dish body without being overly fishy. The toasted breadcrumbs offer a nice contrast in textures.
We are served some pieces of fresh Watermelon to get us prepared for our next plates.
The main events follow shortly......
Cornish Mackerel with Nama Yasi Greens & Pastis. This dish tastes just as good as it looks! The scored skin served crispily, sits perfectly on top of the glossy white meat. The fish is filleted perfectly without a bone in sight. The Pastis offers a quirky aniseed kick to the dish, with the greens proving to be a perfect mop for the natural oils coming from the Mackerel.
David has the aged Mutton & Ratatouille. Served pink atop the chunky veg, it's a hearty portion that could easily fill up the hungriest of diners.
After more of Charlie's wine recommendations (Their wine list is EXTENSIVE!), we decide to share a dessert. Charlie has no hesitations in choosing the Sichuan Crème Brulee. From the second he places it in front of us, we’re hit with the scent of burnt sugar & spiciness of the Sichuan. The spice offers a warmth I would never normally associate with a traditional Crème Brulee. Still creamy, but with a slight kick, the tiny dish is demolished in seconds!