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REVIEW: Helio’s Cantina @ The Institute Of Light

REVIEW: Helio’s Cantina @ The Institute Of Light

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WHAT: A preposterously hip yet intimate restaurant/bar/cinema space in London Fields, where genial head chef Helio Fenerich serves up rustic Mediterranean food with Nigella’s stamp of approval.

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WHERE: The Institute of Light is Hackney’s newest collaborative space – a one-stop cultural hub comprising a railway arch and intimate courtyard under the rumble of the old “Great Eastern Jazz Line”.

It’s got a vinyl record store, a film, music and photography bookshop, and a ‘social cafe’, the latter in which we sat down to sample Helio’s deft, rustic cooking on a relaxed Friday evening.

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The likes of fried artichoke and fresh Italian cheese (£9) and £4 gluten-free chickpea flatbread with chickpea and fresh rosemary (both pictured) make up the ‘small plates’, two of which are enough to begin a meal for two.

Polvo a lagareiro (grilled octopus with potatoes, olive and garlic) is charred to perfection at £9.20, while a generous portion of cured meats selected by the chef will set you back £9.

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For mains, we tried the slow-cooked beef rigatoni drenched in a rich pancetta chianti ragu (£12), perfectly complemented by an intense, cherry red bottle of De Alto Ama Rioja. Slow-cooked Moorish chicken with olives, prunes and capers plus smashed chickpeas, spinach and almonds (£14) was a lighter choice, full of earthy flavours.

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For dessert, we were lucky enough to sample a trio of delights – a slither of light, flourless chocolate cake, plus lemon tart with creme fraiche and verrine – poached pears with homemade almond ice cream and a crunchy brulee topping.

We’ll be back on a Sunday to check out the Weekend Special, a full roast dinner for 4 (min. 2 persons) at £16.50 a head – including trimmings and dessert. Finish with a friendly chat with chef Helio himself, then go straight through to the cinema to catch anything from Nocturnal Animals to American Honey via I, Daniel Blake. Too tired for a long movie? Grab a cup of tea and flick through the colourful bookshelf to your heart’s content. We can’t imagine a better end to the weekend.

ADDRESS: Arch 376, 10 Helmsley Place, London Fields, London, E8 3SB

WEBSITE: The-institute-of-light.com

Amy Everett is FashionBite's food and travel editor, she also writes for national newspapers and magazines including the Guardian Travel, Stylist, Shortlist, Red, Cosmopolitan and more.

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