Charlie Mellor and Tom Anglesea have created a perfect neighbourhood restaurant that deals in small plates
Blink and you might miss The Laughing Heart as you walk down Hackney Road. Part of a nondescript parade of shops with a plain glass frontage, this wine shop, bar and restaurant hides its many talents from casual observers, but once inside the larger-than-life Australian owner Charlie Mellor couldn’t be more effusive.
A former opera singer, who previously worked at Brawn and Elliot’s, Mellor is a jovial and charismatic presence with an irresistible passion for low intervention wines, guiding guests through the long wine list and regaling them with stories of the growers who make them.
Chef Tom Anglesea beavers away in the open kitchen creating wine-friendly small plates showcasing British seasonal ingredients and punchy international flavours. Start with Morecambe Bay oysters topped with elderflower, before moving through Orkney scallops, which are given a thrilling jolt of English wasabi, to a triumphant slab of beef from a 17-year-old dairy cow.
The drinks list is nirvana for natural and biodynamic wine buffs with a huge range from growers in France and Italy, but also Spain, Austria and even Serbia.
Bare brick and simple wooden tables (complete with nifty cutlery drawers) tick all the right boxes for East London and there’s a buzzy, convivial atmosphere, especially at the weekends when the licence runs until 2am and conversation volume levels are cranked up.
The Laughing Heart takes its name from a wonderful Bukowski poem about living your life to the full – an attitude and philosophy that infuses the whole dining experience.