Ooh, heaven is a place on earth, says Zoë Perrett, and you’ll find it in the back streets of Hackney
It’s a rare breed that doesn’t mind being first on the dancefloor, and it’s a rarer breed indeed that willingly enters an entirely empty restaurant.
But symbiosis between our hunger pangs and rumours of stonking vegan Sichuan-ish food propels us through Facing Heaven’s doors – where moments later I find myself literally as well as metaphorically first on the dancefloor, courtesy of a bijou loo styled as a mini discotheque.
It’s not long before there’s a queue for not only that loo but also just for a table – despite that first burst of tumbleweed terror, we early birds are now smug in the knowledge we definitely caught the worm.
With just 28 covers in a dining room whose aesthetic one might christen ‘diner gone rogue’ (check floor, multicoloured lights, eclectic art prints and a rose on every table), a menu whose length gives David but boldness gives Goliath, and a hint of anarchic chaos in the air along with the rock music and Sichuan pepper, Julian Denis’ Hackney hotspot instantly overlaps with Black Axe Mangal in my internal restaurant Venn Diagram.
A procession of dishes arrive in quick succession on the itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow-painted table top between us, but tbh they couldn’t come fast enough because we’re absolutely Bruce Bogtrottering the lot.
A rainbow of courgettes is doused in a lickable liquor of chilli oil, peanuts and black vinegar. Dry-dressed roast potato chunks boast a salt’n’pepperish seasoning amped up with copious amounts of swagger and savour.
Chongqing cauliflower is a bhaji-lover’s wet dream – a Jinfo mountain-sized heap of crisp-coated florets, batter scraps and peanuts littered with the Facing Heaven chillies that give this ace place its name.
The juicy bite of a breaded ‘hammered oyster mushroom’ is so chicken-y I can’t believe it’s not clucked and been plucked.
Ho fun arrive at the table after appetite has departed, but this is the dish we demolish fastest of all – for one, cause the combo of crumbled ‘blood sausage’, kale, fennel and ooey-gooey noodles is to dine for, and for two cause our table for two is needed on the hurry-up.
Learn from us and arrive early: it’s a devil’s own job getting a prime time table at Facing Heaven.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
- Facing Heaven, 1A Bayford Street, London E8 3SE
- Visit Facing Heaven’s website here
- Find @facingheaven on Instagram