Mission – Arch 250, Paradise Row, E2 9LE
The initial appeal of this East London wine bar was that its just around the corner from our humble East London flat, and I get lazy. But since it’s opening late last year Mission has gained plenty of attention and really caught my eye in an online review I was reading last week (initially because of the pretty-flash palm tree centre piece that swoons over the bar, but then for the soothing sound if its rustic, unpretentious tapas-style dishes). I won’t pretend I know a hell of a lot about wine. I’m embarrassed to say it. But I do know East London. And good food. And where to get good food in East London, with a glass of wine. So that’s what I am going to comment on.
Mission is placed in a railway arch, with a dark, curved wooden ceiling that makes you feel like you’re walking straight into a wine barrel. Fittingly, the whole place was drunk – loud, bustling, a bit dizzying. But very inviting. On Friday night our waiting staff were mental; too busy to show much concern but kind and understanding when we managed to get their attention…and everyone did seemed to be having a great time.
It was hard for me and my ever hungry dining partner to narrow down the menu to just a few dishes – but we opted for one ‘snack’, two small plates and one large, with a side – for two this was the perfect amount. Here they are:
Quail, aioli, radicchio
I’ve got a bit of an issue with serving meat on the bone in the sort of environment that probably wouldn’t condone eating with your hands (it’s my pet hate). Give me a big bowl of chicken wings in an American diner and i’m yours. But trying to share this cute little barbecued quail on a high-rimmed plate made things a bit awkward. If you’re going to serve bbq’d meat, either strip it off the bone for your diners, or provide plenty of napkins and a dipping bowl!
My dining partner did the best he could with his cutlery, stabbing passing waiters with his hungry elbows! I opted to throw caution to the wind and ate the whole thing as god intended – with my hands, stripping the tender meat off with my fingers to dip in the incredible aioli, potent with garlic!
Pork terrine, sourdough
It was a little bland (I had however just polished off the remaining aioli with my fingers). The terrine was studded with pistachios and had a nice livery taste that lasts. It was however slightly dry and the whole thing could have done with a nice spread of butter.
By far the showstopper. At first the pasta (I think taglierini) looked like it might be a little too thin to hold the large meatballs, but the mutton was so beautifully soft, the bite of the thin homemade pasta was welcome. It all worked so perfectly well; the tomato sauce was heady with garlic and oregano, but not too rich to overwhelm. A conversation-stopping meal is what I was after, and I got one. My only complaint was that it was impossible to decide who got the 3rd meatball. We split it in half (my diner’s half was slightly bigger and for that I will never forgive him!)
Rabbit cacciatore, polenta, greens
Soft rabbit meat, creamy polenta and a rich sauce that drowned the plate. The cacciatore sauce had plenty black pepper, subtle herbs and again lots of garlic. With so much sauce and very soft polenta, the dish was a little wet, and could have done with a bit more texture – crispier rabbit skin, maybe?
Our bill came to a rather pricey but even £100, with two glasses of wine each. We both left full (well, he’s never full) and happy, probably a little lethal from all the garlic.
Rather dear but pretty excellent food, and a lovely, lively atmosphere. I’d say stick to the small and large plates (our side of Cavelo Nero was ok, again loads of garlic, but certainly wasn’t necessary with all the other more exciting things going on). Would definitely go again and order at least two plates of meatballs. Actually, give us a massive bowlful to eat Lady & The Tramp-style and we’d be very happy customers indeed.