LOTI Eats | Big Night

Big Night is the new late-night dining experience that Hackney needs

It’s a Thursday, it’s dark and a little chilly as I walk down Well Street against the backdrop of red brake lights, the click, click, click of hacked Lime bikes and the hum of traffic. Once I’m on Morning Lane and the road veers left, I see The Glove That Fits, a club that resides within the curved building at the crossing. Right next door is what used to be Nest, and is now something new, something exciting and something well needed.

A bright orange vinyl on the glass window of the door reads ‘BIG NIGHT’. This is the Stanley Tucci- and Japanese yakitori izakayainspired, late-night Hackney restaurant from chefs Joshua Ralphs and Jack O’ Connor, where they put British-ish produce on sticks and grill them over charcoal. There’s also a killer soundtrack, a sprinkle of madness and a few vodka shots.

As I approach the door, it’s unlocked and officially open for the evening. First one in, no one can say I’m not keen. Inside is a retro dream – besides the wood panelling on the walls there’s a TV showing Big Night (obviously) next to a load of spirit bottles, kitsch 1970s rounded corner tables, red plastic chairs and quirky details everywhere. The kitchen at the far end features a hatch smack bang in the middle of the white tiled wall. Just above that is the menu, scribbled in chalk over two blackboards, one side for food, the other for drinks, showing that both deserving the same amount of attention. I snap a picture of each, sit near the window, and wait for my incredibly late guests to arrive.

Joshua and Jack met working at the now-closed Larry’s in Peckham and between them have worked at Flor, Lasdun and also Jolene. Big Night is their joint venture, centred around their love of foraging, fermenting, sustainability and living low-waste.

Jack pops over with a small bowl of vibrant purple kimchi that I just have to try and it’s great; tangy, sour, sharp and full of umami flavours. He sits down and we chat about his cooking, the ingredients they’re using at the moment, the fact that the majority of the menu is vegan and everything aside from the noodles, pork skewer and soy sauce is gluten-free. He’s passionate, I can see how much he loves it here, and he’s dying for us to try well, pretty much everything. Josh comes over with a tray of sauerkraut and several vodka shots, and now my guests are here we all do a cold, smooth, surprisingly drinkable shot, marking the start of what is clearly going to be a big night.

A plate of spring greens and cavolo nero smoked with citrus wood arrives, it’s incredible and chopsticks from all directions pinch away. Mussels pickled in buckets of mirin, apple cider vinegar and a little bit of soy and topped off with a little chilli oil come to us on a bed of crunchy cabbage.

Then there are the skewers, inner chicken thigh and spring onion; a stunning pork one with spicy Thai mustard; lamb heart and kidney with an excellent XO sauce; beetroot, daikon and shallot; squash and black bean; and the absolute must-order, Chinese tahini-topped fermented sprouts.

With a raise of an eyebrow Josh hints at more drinks and insists we try another shot of something he describes as weird and a little like Bovril. I’m game, though unlikely to have another gravy-infused whiskey concoction anytime soon. I finished with a Campari beer with an umbrella in it, along with a very wobbly and very lovely crème tea caramel with a beautiful texture and beautiful sweetness, and no that’s not the Bovril talking.

From being first through the door Big Night is now packed and there’s not an empty table in sight. Thoroughly impressive and enormously enjoyable, I’d have Big Night any day of the week.

177 Morning Lane, London E9 6LH