Come, join me in a game of east London hipster bingo at Snackbar, a minimalist card-only canteen next to Dalston Junction with a sustainable urban farm – chicken run and polytunnel for salad leaves outside, mushrooms to be grown on the roof (Ooh, nearly a full house already). There’s a co-working space upstairs that’s home to devastatingly cool booze brand Empirical Spirits (sample bottle name: Fuck Trump and his Stupid Fucking Wall); Japanese fermented things in all the dishes – egg mayo and XO sandwich, kimchi cheese toasties, miso peanut butter cookies, etc. And there you have it. Bingo!
Two fat ladies? Not even one: customers at Snackbar are either skinny boys with Airpods and too-short trousers chopsticking tempura shiitake from rice bowls, or women with blunt fringes gathered around MacBooks planning no-waste supper clubs and conscious curry nights. Or quite possibly another new urban farm cafe where women with blunt fringes will sit and plan urban farm cafes… So yes, this is the kind of place that red-faced tabloid columnists jeer at: the very definition of a freelancing millennial snowflake caff. And it’s brilliant.
It helps that there are serious food buffs behind the kimcheese croissant-strewn counter: Freddie Janssen, the pickle queen behind all the ferments, and chef Anaïs van Manen (ex-Nuala and Trullo). Their menu changes regularly depending on what’s in season (obvs) but as a rule, there are variations on flatbreads and salads and rice bowls. The ‘Snack’ in the name is deceptive: these aren’t feeble titbit small plates but bulky fodder to power you through an afternoon of logo designing for your zero juice-pulp granola line.
The Caesar salad, for example, comes with both exemplary bronzed sourdough croutons, thick shards of roast chicken skin and a silly-generous amount of chicken for £8. Snackbar’s polytunnel isn’t up and running yet so salad leaves come from another urban farm, Hackney’s Growing Communities. They are bewitching: a riot of fronds and stalks and tendrils in a veritable Farrow & Ball colour chart of greens, each with its own distinct flavour. Heftier still is the goat rendang flatbread. Goat can feel a bit worthy – ever so lean, ever so sustainable! – but here it’s saved from sanctimony by being slow-cooked lushly in spice and draped in sambal butter. Most people have rice bowls, which can be eaten with chopsticks leaving one hand free for scrolling: delightfully squidgy tempura mushrooms, kimchi and a wobbling egg yolk on a heap of Ambrosia sticky white rice. There’s no alcohol license, so it’s locally made soft drinks and their own fig leaf soda – as gentle and innocent as the flaxen haired toddler sipping Pump Street hot chocolate in a high chair – instead.
Nobody tries to chivvy you out when you’ve finished eating, you’re left to your own electronic devices as long as you want. As I tap on my laptop two hours later, the bearded man next to me takes a call from a friend who’s been arrested at the Extinction Rebellion protest. Course he has. Snackbar, with its hipster cool take on sustainability and crowdsourcing, is practically designed to make dinosaurs sneer. But it’s the very delicious future, and it deserves a full house. snackbarlondon.com
Total for two, with drinks: £25
20 Dalston Lane, E8 3AZ
Newcomer Wines opens at 4pm for a glass of minimal intervention Austrian pet nat. Bingo!