Nestled amid the industrial buildings of the Wick, the Hackney Pearl looks from the outside like an unassuming café. The haute cuisine menu and lengthy wine list may thus come as something of a surprise to those who wander into the new establishment.
The Pearl is the creation of erstwhile artist James Morgan, who opted to start an eatery on the grounds that “people love food and art, but food pays better”. James cut his teeth in some of Australia’s finest restaurants, before coming to London “to look at pictures”. He ended up at St John in Clerkenwell, where he worked front of house for five years before branching out on his own.
Having lived in Hackney for 10 years, James chose the Wick partly because he was attracted by the idea of serving a clientele that includes local artists. The Pearl’s offerings are priced accordingly, as affordable as they can be whilst maintaining quality. His aim is simply to have “a good local that people can come to again and again”.
For those who only want tea, the Pearl will provide your brew in a vintage china cup with teapot to match. Alternatively, you can tuck into a three-course gourmet meal.
On Tuesday nights £10 will buy you a glass of wine and a main course, and the bar’s off-licence allows you to bring home a bottle or two of what you have sampled. On the third Thursday of the month, guest chefs from across London will be showcasing their talent, and on Wednesday nights diners can eat to the accompaniment of live music.
Is the opening of quality café and bar a sign that the Wick is losing its edge? James thinks not, yet he has ambivalent feelings about the prospect of the changes in store for the neighbourhood: “The regeneration of an area rarely benefits the people who are already there.” Like many others, James fears for the artistic community that forms the backbone of his clientele, “the artists don’t believe they are going to be treated well in the area”, he says, “they believe they are going to be priced out, and that would be a crying shame”.
For the moment, however, the art scene is thriving in this sometimes overlooked corner of the borough, and the Pearl makes a trip to the Wick even more worthwhile.
The Hackney Pearl
11 Prince Edward Road