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REVIEW: Helio’s Cantina @ The Institute Of Light

REVIEW: Helio’s Cantina @ The Institute Of Light


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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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