Gentrification in Hackney has moved on from being an exciting programme of urban regeneration to somewhat of a cliché. Whilst the clientele at Martello Hall are admittedly likely to be discussing their travels in Emilia-Romagna over a Hazelnut Espresso Martini this is also a friendly family establishment for all.
First opening its doors just 3 months ago, Martello Hall is open all day to serve the hot-deskers of Hackney with unlimited coffee and Wifi in the morning for £10 a day, and the cocktail party-goers in the evening. Across 3 floors of this newly refurbished ex-pub, the Edwardian décor is consistent and thoughtful. The manager informed us they are booked out most weekends. All good stuff on the business front then, but these hot-desking establishments are ten a penny in this neck of ‘innovative’ London so its fortunate that Martello Hall also boasts a formidable drinks line up.
12 wines are available on tap, a London record we are told; it would undoubtedly be an improvement to the London restaurant scene if this were to catch on – albeit it is common fare in many parts of Southern Europe. What is most impressive at Martello Hall, however, is their selection of cocktails. The restaurant opened with its own gin distillery but this was not working on the night of our visit, so East London Dry Gin was substituted instead – the restaurant tries to use as many local ingredients as possible. The hole in the wall offering offering sausage rolls by the inch was also out of order, adding to the impression that there are some teething problems but hopefully these will be resolved.
The drinks were excellent. The Martello gin and tonic was light and sweet and whilst the Stateside cocktail packed more of a punch, we agreed on the Martello as the drink of choice. The Gordal olives and the grilled and salted Padron peppers were top quality and were a suitable accompaniment to our cocktails.
From the starter menu we sampled the charcuterie and the Parmesan cheese. The latter, sold by the once, was generously portioned and of a superb standard, with just the right texture. Torta Fritta – small fried dough dumplings – were overshadowed by the cheese.
The main dishes were creative and curated by the owners themselves, based on their experiences travelling through the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. We were told by the very friendly and attentive staff that each item has been selected based on personal experience and the execution is mostly excellent. Martello Hall claims to have the best pizza in London and whilst initially sceptical, the consistent flurry of grateful locals carrying hot brown pizza boxes out into the night raised our expectations of something special. We weren’t disappointed. Our London Fields pizza had a light, crispy base and the Chef’s meatballs were flavoursome. Impressively, Martello Hall has a 350-degree wood-fired oven and the pizzas are only inside for a minute, even 10 seconds too long could prove disastrous. Whilst it’s almost impossible to describe any pizza as ‘the best’ I have even eaten, they nailed it with this one. I could distinctly taste the tangy but not overbearing cheese and the tomato source struck the right balance between dominating the pizza and retreating too far into the background.
We sampled the buttermilk fried chicken and the Mergeuz scotched egg, neither of which were remarkable. The ‘njuda ketchup, however, was a revelation with the spicy notes taking the humble ketchup to new heights. Nevertheless, if you’re going to eat here, keep it simple and get a pizza.
The staff were proud to regale us of their ‘sharer’ liquor options. We were brought a frozen glass decanter shaped like a skull and filled with their vodka ‘sharer’. The shot glasses were also frozen which made the overall experience not unpleasant – a victory when drinking straight vodka. It’s a nice quirk if not utterly revolutionary.
That, in short, summarises Martello Hall. It’s a tried and tested concept done well with a few quirks. Locals gossip and chatter late into the night, and the creative pizza and the alcohol section make this a worthwhile visit. Once a boozer, Martello Hall stays true to its roots and provides locals with a welcoming drinking hole. Come for a top-quality pizza and a couple of cocktails and you will be on your way to a happy evening in this friendly eatery.
137 Mare Street
London E8 3RH