Tucked away in a corner of the Isle of Dogs that not many people would ever have occasion to visit is a delightful little place called Hubbub Cafe Bar and Restaurant. Housed in the upstairs of a converted Victorian chapel (the downstairs plays host to a performing arts and community centre called The Space), Hubbub is a charmingly atmospheric venue. With generous spacing between the tables, you never feel like you’re a part of your neighbours’ dinner table conversations. The music is set to the perfect background volume and the friendly service is so relaxed that it’s easy to while away an entire evening here.
I was pleased to see that all of the wines on Hubbub’s wine list are available by the glass or by the bottle, giving a decent choice for dining couples who don’t fancy quaffing quite as much as half a bottle each. Organised by grape type and offering one of each of the main grape varieties of each colour, the list makes life very easy if you know your own taste in wine. My dining partner and I opted for the Merlot, which was just as smooth as we were hoping for, with plenty of juicy black fruit flavours.
To start, I chose the feta, petit pois and mint tartlet. Although pleasant, this was more of a quiche than a tartlet, and could probably have done with a bit more feta in the mix to give it a bigger bite. My dining partner’s Korean kimchi dumplings with soy sauce were deliciously crisp, though the spiciness of the kimchi filling didn’t come through as strongly as it might have done. Our mains were far more impressive, however. My burger, to which I added cheddar and sautéed mushrooms, was huge, with a satisfyingly beefy flavour. The cheddar was a mature one, strong and tangy and perfectly melted, while the mushrooms added a deliciously delicate nuttiness to the mix. The burger came sandwiched inside an enormous focaccia roll, much tastier than your average burger bun, and with a generous side of hand cooked chips. These were like my dream chips – served skin on and perfectly crisp on the outside, with fluffy middles and not at all greasy. My dining partner also had a burger, which he accessorized with roasted peppers, jalapenos and relish. Instead of hand cut chips, he chose French fries, which were also perfect examples of their genre – thin cut and crispy and liberally salted.
After such large main courses, we almost couldn’t fit in a dessert, but we had been tempted by the sight of a sticky toffee pudding on the menu, so we sat back, sipping our wine, until our stomachs were ready for more. We were glad we waited, as the sticky toffee pudding was a truly decadent delight. The sponge was dark and sticky, and shot through with rich shredded dates. It was served with a caramel sauce, something I was initially sceptical about but which actually worked brilliantly as the bitter, burnt caramel taste contrasted with the syrupy richness of the toffee and kept the dish from becoming too sweet. The kiwi fruit garnish was an interesting touch – I’d never have expected it but the taste of the fruit melded with that of the caramel sauce so harmoniously that it was almost impossible to tell them apart.
At the end of it all, we were impressed by the reasonableness of our bill – under £35 per head for three courses, including wine and tip (which we added on ourselves as Hubbub’s policy is not to add a service charge). Overall, Hubbub comes highly recommended with a big four Forks-Up. Given the relaxed setting, quality food and the value for money, we were surprised that it wasn’t busier (we were one of only five tables on a Saturday evening). The waitress informed us that it gets packed when there’s a performance on at The Space downstairs. But if spreading the word with a restaurant review can help generate more of a hubbub about Hubbub the rest of the time, then that can only be a good thing in my view.Hubbub Cafe Bar and Restaurant 269 Westferry Road Isle of Dogs London E14 3RS 0207 515 5577 www.hubbubcafebar.com