After a series of deliveries, pop-ups and residencies, Matthew Scott has finally taken Hot 4 U permanent and he’s got Charlie Carr of Wingnut Wines in on the action too. With Papi, open on a London Fields backstreet, combines the creative cooking (who can forget the garum pom bears and whisky bone marrow luge?) we’ve come to know and love from Hot 4 U, with Wingnut Wines’ selection of under-represented natural wines.
Split across two floors, the intimate downstairs cocktail bar nods more heavily to the Hot 4 U days, with Ribena Negronis, Strawberry Nesquik Daiquiris, and pig’s trotter nuggets with mustard smiley faces on offer. Upstairs in the main 28-cover dining room, Matthew’s signature mix of sustainable, zero-waste and fun cookery is still on show, just in a slightly more refined way. It’s a hell of a menu and one that manages to be both understated yet intriguing, with the descriptions belying the level of detail in each plate.
Our first dish of winter tomatoes dressed in a mix of Asian condiments, including black vinegar and ABC sauce, delivered a smack of umami and a molasses-like sweetness, and it was banger after banger from then on. Lightly cured bream, doused with rhubarb dressing and topped with tobiko, was lovely and clean, contrasting nicely with the garlic bread and cheese, a pleasingly doughy round of fermented potato bread finished with a quiff of whipped soft cheese and wild garlic. The gambas farcelette, a prawn mousse wrapped in cabbage leaves, had the perfect soft texture – zero rubberiness or graininess here – with the sweet shellfish flavour amplified by the red dulse and prawn head sauce.
There were two particular standouts in the Papi parade of hits. One was the rabbit kielbasa; the smoky, spicy, salty sausage, with its smooth grind and barbecued exterior, is everything you’d want in a sausage – there’s a side business in packaging these up and selling them by the half dozen for sure. The other was the cheeseburger tartare, a frankly genius creation of minced raw beef, chopped through with gherkins and mustard seeds and topped with a burger sauce-type concoction that completely delivered the taste of a burger, with seaweed dusted fries providing the crunch.
With Charlie (whose Wingnut Wines has its own bar just down the road from the Papi site at Netil Market) in charge of the wine list, which champions small and lesser-known producers, the bevs are a perfect match for the food. He recommended us an Andi Weigand White and the orange Ad Naturum Blanc from Chateau Lassolle, both minerally, slightly savoury and super interesting, so let him guide you and just enjoy the ride.
Nab seats at the kitchen counter if you can for some top chat but just make sure you’re in there somewhere, because a Papi party is one you defo want to be at.
1F Mentmore Terrace, London, E8 3PN