Winter and spring have finally stopped arguing over what season it really is, and temperatures peaked at a wondrous 16 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend. I know that’s not particularly hot, especially for me, but it didn’t stop people from spilling out into the streets in shorts and t-shirts to venture to the nearest local park or brunch al fresco.
As a new vegan (nearly eight months as I write this), I’ve made it my goal to seek out new vegan restaurants and food pop-ups to gain a better understanding of my options when dining out.
I’d been meaning to visit Club Mexicana when it took over the kitchens of Pamela on Kingsland High Street last year. But when I heard it had secured a residency in the kitchens of The Spread Eagle in Homerton, it was the perfect excuse to try some new vegan food with a couple of friends, while rectifying my prolonged vitamin D deficiency at the same time.
Newly refurbished, The Spread Eagle is one of four local pubs on Homerton High Street that were formerly traditional old school boozers, frequented by locals, before the increase of Hackney’s questionable ‘regeneration’ efforts in the early 2000’s.
But I have to say, this refurb’ is definitely one that’s not so alienating to locals that may have grown up in the surrounding area. For starters, it’s corner doors are wide-open, displaying the pubs bright, airy and inviting decor even before you walk in.
The refurbished interior mirrors the classic, new generation-style of pubs you’ll find around Hackney today – newly polished bar surfaces, artisan light fixtures, craft beers and a wide selection of popular spirits are on display.
Rustic shelves adorned with succulents are mounted on deep blue coloured walls, and wooden countertops are plated in polished copper – if you look closer, you can almost see the original wooden features underneath.
The restaurant area at the back of the bar was fairly busy when we arrived at around 3 pm, so I was glad that we booked our table in advance. The menu is simple and focuses on sharing plates as well a selection of mains. You can choose from a variety of tacos, sides and snacks, Tortas (burgers) and a small selection of beer pairing plates.
As there were three of us, and this was the first time experiencing the menu, we decided to order all of the taco options, all the snacks and sides as well as the vegan chicken wings – we were very hungry!
Snacks and sides consisted of warm tortilla chips, topped with lashings of guacamole and house-made salsa. Triple fried potatoes with chipotle oil and vegan sour cream. Followed by pan-fried scallops, made from mushroom stems, cooked in seaweed to mirror the familiar seafood flavour.
If you’re a carnivore and need the flavour and texture meat – have no fear, the tacos will save you.
Beer-battered ‘tofish’ is a classic vegan twist on traditional battered cod and was surprisingly tasty with the combination of the salsa verde and vegan sour cream.
The marinated ‘pork’ (I actually forgot to ask what this was made from, sorry) was the most flavoursome, and the burst of sweetness from the chargrilled pineapple was almost reminiscent of the flavour of the classic Hawaiian pizza.
The jackfruit and Mojo de Ajo taco was the winner for me. You get the meaty texture from the jackfruit, spicy heat from the Mojo de Ajo sauce and the cool aftertaste of the tomatoes from the pico de gallo.
To finish, we all shared the ‘sweet’ – a deep-fried ball of vanilla vegan ice cream in a crispy savoury batter, covered in lashings chilli vegan chocolate sauce.
Normally I’m not a fan of restaurant desserts but I’ll be honest; it tastes just as good as it sounds! The sweet is definitely something to eat in moderation if you’re trying to keep off the extra pounds this summer.
Altogether, we ordered two rounds of each taco selection, one round of all the starters and snacks, a portion of vegan chicken wings, a bottle of sauvignon blanc and three pints of cider – totalling to around £95 including service. That’s £32 per person including service.
But if you’re watching the pennies this summer, you can bring your bill down to £22.50, including service, if you order a main (I’d recommend one of the tortas), a side and a pint. Not bad for a filling vegan meal.
Now that I know this place is still close to home, my next mission is to try out the burgers, but maybe not all in one sitting.
For more information and reservations:
The Spread Eagle
224 Homerton High Street
Telephone: 020 8985 0400
FRIDAY 4PM -2AM
Club Mexicana kitchen open Thursday to Sunday.
All images were taken by Demetrius Williams unless otherwise stated.