If you read my last post, you will notice that I said my mum is a hairdresser. Her salon is situated on the up & coming “Francis Road” in Leyton which has undergone some serious gentrification over the last few years.
What was once a road full of greasy take aways & world food supermarkets is slowly being replaced with commercialised spaces. This includes quaint coffee shops, quirky Shoreditch-like restaurants & there are even talks of a cocktail bar opening!
I had gone down to my mum’s shop Christina’s Hair Design on Thursday evening to get my hair done, so it was only right that we grabbed a bite to eat afterwards. A few doors down sits a simplistic, grey shop which when closed, leaves the mind wondering what could be inside. It couldn’t be more Shoreditch if it tried: hidden windows, no logo, wooden beamed exterior & a flowerpot!
Once open (which isn’t until 5.30 on Thursdays & Fridays), the blinds come up & benches are put outside which begin to give an indication of what this trendy grey space is. It is in fact a cute, little restaurant which serves a rather varied & unique menu. Dishes range from a traditional British roast, to a vegan-friendly butternut squash, to more exotic middle eastern & Mediterranean plates like kofta & couscous. What else makes the menu so special is the fact that it changes daily & the ingredients are sourced from fresh, local produce.
We booked the first reservation of the night as we were told by locals in the area that it gets booked up quickly here. As we walked in, I could see why it gets so full as there are only 3 tables! We were warmly welcomed by the young staff members & as we were the only ones there, the waitress told us that we could choose any table we liked. Where did we choose? The 2 person table in the corner lol! I think this partly might have been due to the fact that the other tables were for sharing or at the bar which most people would prefer not to choose if they had the option. Whilst the sharing concept might not be ideal, it works for Marmelo because it adds an extra layer of quirkiness as well as cosiness to the small restaurant.
As we took our seats, I expected to have a menu placed in front of me; you know just the usual protocol which occurs in a restaurant! However once seated, our waitress talked us through the specials of the night & afterwards directed us to read the menu off the chalkboard behind the partly open kitchen. I have to admit that I thought this was odd & it put me off a bit as I couldn’t make out what was written. My face must have given my feelings away as the waitress came up to us & showed us another board on the other side of the restaurant & said we could take a picture of it if we wished to read it at our table, so I did!
As you can see, there isn’t a massive variety to choose from & the prices are very cheap for main meals. This is when it dawned on me that Marmelo must be similar to tapas or meze where diners share a number of dishes between them. The waitress recommended 2 dishes per person.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what a lot of the stuff on the menu was! My eyes were drawn to the “confit chicken leg” because I thought that anything with chicken in it’s name must be a safe option. Little did I know that it would be far from safe & instead turned out to be my favourite dish of the night!
The chicken laid on a bed of broccoli & cabbage & was topped with what looked like a huge scotch egg. It wasn’t until I cut into it that I realised that it was in fact a duck egg. How random? It actually really complimented the slow cooked chicken, which was already juicy enough alone, by adding a marvellous moistness. Although the chicken was great & literally fell off the bone, (explaining why it was served as small shredded pieces as opposed to a whole leg) I couldn’t get enough of the broccoli it was served with!
In case you didn’t know, I am probably the least healthy person alive which is why it came as a shock to my mum as I polished off the greens. What was so weirdly wonderful about them is the fact that they were crunchy whilst simultaneously fluffy & drizzled in garlic – who doesn’t like a bit of garlic?! I certainly do even if my belly doesn’t lol.
I then thought it would be wise to have another meat dish which I again played safe with smoked Yorkshire ham. Whilst my hope of sticking to what I know worked out splendidly for the confit chicken, it wasn’t quite the same this time. Don’t get me wrong it was very nice & the apple sauce was out of this world, I mean what a lovely mix of flavours! But the bread let it down. What convinced me to choose this dish was the fact that the bread was made of sourdough which is supposedly a healthier alternative to normal bread (even if it is basically bread that has gone “off)”. However it was just a little too hard in this case & I was struggling to cut it up! I also think that it may have been a dish better suited for brunch or lunch as it was basically a jazzy bit of toast, bacon & sauce – I hope to see it on the Saturday brunch menu when I return!
As my second meat option didn’t quite go to plan, I opted for a fish dish. I am not a big fan of really fishy fish so the mackerel was automatically crossed off my list. This left me with the pan fried plaice fillet with Sicilian caponata. I was interested to see what caponata was as I have been in love with Sicilian food ever since I visited Nonna’s Kitchen. As it arrived, I suddenly felt very nostalgic because it resembled a dinner my Greek nan used to make called “tava”.
They are both cooked in a tomato based sauce with assorted vegetables marinated within it. It may not sound like the most appealing of dishes but it worked so well with the pristinely white & soft plaice. We had a bit of sourdough bread left so we used the remaining caponata as a topping for it & created our very own bruschetta type snack! My only qualm with the fish was that it contained a few bones.
Last but not least were the arancini balls to perfectly round up the taste of Sicily. Now I ADORE anything with mozzarella (or any type of cheese for that matter) so these were like heaven on earth. If you don’t know then you need to get to know! They are fried balls stuffed with rice, ragu, mozzarella & peas. Give me a huge arancini ball the size of a plate & I would happily have that as my main meal! If I hadn’t tried these before elsewhere, it would have easily been my #1 at Marmelo.
We didn’t get time for a dessert & quite frankly I was stuffed despite the fact that the whole of my meal was shared! In place of a sweet, I got speaking to the waitress who gave me a sneak peak of the cocktail bar the Marmelo crew are due to open nearby. The talented owner also makes her own organic gourmet preserves & cordials which you can catch her selling at the local farmers market..
Though I didn’t have any due to designated driving duties, their wine menu looked amazing; they even had Greek wine on the menu! Who knew? This shows me that as well as knowing their food, which they do so well they cater on tv & film sets, they really know their drinks too. All they need now is the alcohol license for the new space & #discoveringdifference will be on the case!
All in all, I highly recommend Marmelo for a quiet night with a partner or a civilised night out with friends. Described as serving British & Meditteranean cuisine, it caters to all tastebuds whether those are vegan, vegetarian or carnivore! If you are looking for the tapas style sharing plates like I had, be sure to visit on a Thursday or Friday. Note that you won’t get this option any other day of the week because 1. it is closed Monday – Wednesday & 2. come Saturday, Marmelo serves only the best in brunch & a take on the traditional roast by Sunday.
Who will I see #discoveringdifference at this cute,little restaurant next? If you have visited this hidden gem (which really is hidden behind all the madness of Leyton) for Saturday brunch or Sunday roast, please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts…
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