Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rita's Bar and Dining, Dalston


Bacon peanut brittle; Pancetta & anchovy wedge; Fish taco; Ox-heart taco; Ginger & soy hot wings, pickles; Chicken roll; Patty melt; Smoked pork & duck heart baked beans; fries. The menu at Rita's Bar & Dining is not so much as if someone had asked me what 15 or so of my favourite things in the world were to eat and then written them down, no, it's more than that. It's as if someone somehow knew what my deepest subconscious foodie desires were and constructed a list of ingredients combined in such a way as to make me wobble with joy. I want this menu read out at my funeral; I want to spray-paint it onto the side of my house; I want to take it home to meet my parents.

Yes, I liked the menu. And I only have my pathetic Saturday evening post-pub appetite to blame for the fact we didn't order the whole lot, so sadly this post will just have to serve as a short teaser of the delights awaiting visitors to Rita's. But based on the handful of dishes we tried, this unlikely spot in the furthest reaches of Dalston will have them queuing down Stoke Newington Road much in the manner of other North-American inspired smash hits across the capital. It really is that good.


I will begin with the only thing that could have been improved - Ginger & soy hot wings had a lovely aromatic flavour but were a little too flabby; perhaps the oil they were fried in wasn't hot enough, or perhaps they weren't deep-fried at all. But accompanying pickles were excellent in that sweet, soft style of US BBQ.


Rita's serve the finest tacos I've eaten this side of the pond, and if that isn't perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay, you'll just have to take my word for it that they tasted every bit as good as you could hope. The fish, crispy and fresh and livened by colourful crunchy pickles and herbs, came on a stunningly authentic-tasting masa-flour (I presume) tortilla, and a ox-heart version paired the same earthy base with some wonderful gamey notes, the meat itself just chewy enough to be interesting. The offal one in particular, in fact, strongly reminded me of something Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista could have served. How has it taken this long to get tacos right in London?


The Rita's Patty Melt has the potential to be their signature offering, partly - admittedly - for the novelty factor (you must know how these things work by now) but mainly because it tastes so damn good. Dripping with, well, dripping I suppose, and using beef mince with a commendable depth of flavour for something costing only £5 (well aged I'm guessing), this is essentially not much more than a toasted beef and cheese sandwich but absolutely none the worse for that. It's enough to make you want to dig out the Breville and have a go yourself.


The chicken roll (not pictured I'm afraid, we were enjoying ourselves too much by this point) was like a gourmet KFC wrap, served in a brown paper bag for that true High-Streetfood filthy chicken feel, but constructed with care and boasting lovely moist and crunchy chicken. If we are to believe the hype that "good" fried chicken is going to be London's latest street food fad, then this is a good a place as any to start.

OK, I know I'm gushing. This kind of thing just happens to be my personal restaurant heaven, and it maybe won't push everyone's buttons. Dalston is a long way from anywhere, the noise and crowd levels later in the evening do have a habit (so I'm told) of slipping just the wrong side of comfortable, and there was more than the usual element of the braying red-trousered type in attendance the evening we went, in accordance with the oh-so-trendy industrial décor and popup sensibilities.

But if you can't enjoy yourself surrounded by fresh fish tacos and fried chicken and burger sandwiches then you're likely to be missing some vital fun-loving part of your brain, and probably shouldn't be eating out at all. I loved Rita's not just because it's "my kind of thing" but because all the food was just way, way, better, and cheaper, than it needed to be, and everything about the way it was delivered (including the wickedly strong frozen Margaritas - careful with those is my tip) made me smile. And there is no greater compliment than that.

9/10

Rita's Bar and Dining on Urbanspoon

18 comments:

Chloe said...

I LOVED it too. Such. Fun.

The piggy beans with duck hearts were to die for, need to go back for the rabbit bun.

Donald Edwards said...

hmmn, frozen margaritas and ox heart tacos, oh and a direct train back to where I live...

Duck said...

Hmm it looks good but I'm guessing there isn't much on offer for vegetarian types like myself? Also, Dalston is such a pain to get to... Even Shoreditch is an annoyance!

Paul Hart said...

That patty melt looks dire.

Kavey said...

Wow, it does sound good. I don't know how likely I am to get there because it's far and I'm an old fart, but it really does sound good.

jen725 said...

Oh good, I'm glad you've been there, it's a few minutes from me, so will definitely try it. Dalston is a long way from anywhere??? It's zone 2!

jen725 said...

Oh good you've been, I was wondering what it was like. Dalston a long way from anywhere - it's zone 2!

Chris Pople said...

Duck: Er, no, I suppose not. I think this blog is a bad place to start looking for places to eat if you're a vegetarian generally I'm afraid!

Paul: It tasted great.

jen725: It may be Zone 2 but it's an absolute bastard to get to from Clapham Junction. Took me an hour an a half!

Oliver Standing said...

North london overground goes direct from clapham junction to dalston no?

Chris Pople said...

Oliver: Not yet, but come December it will once the East London Line extension is completed.

Tom said...

Don't you mean Clapham is miles from anywhere?

Chris Pople said...

Tom: It's Zone 2! (Yes fair enough)

Oliver Standing said...

Cool,
You could go clockwise via Willsden junction I think maybe?

Culinary team Building said...

As a an ardent taco lover, I have got to try their tacos which you describe as the finest. I'm not too sure when I'll be within the vicinity to be able to pay a visit but I'll make sure to do so if I am.

Žiupsnelisdruskos said...

Yay! Finally C&B recommended something close to me!! Must try.

Conor said...

Clapham Junction to Dalston Kingsland takes 50 mins I'v taken it loads of times. I found I had the opposite opinion to your review I found most dishes really bland except for the chicken wings which were incredible, the cocktails were pretty good too.

Leigh said...

Oh heart Tacos!?!?! I need this!

Žiupsnelisdruskos said...

Tacos? What tacos? There are no tacos! According to the waitress, they have been taken off the menu. Now, would they do that since tacos was probably the most praised item this place offers?!

Unfortunately, the rest was equally disappointing. Smoked haddock in a roll was nicely cooked but totally underseasoned. Mac & cheese - also brand, albeit with a spicy blob in the middle. Pasta overdone, the whole thing too squidgy, not unlike nursery food (and I dont mean it in a good way). Mustard greens were too heavy on mustard and salt. Two thumbs down from me.

Simple food has to be spot on, Rita's was way off the mark. Spuntino wannabe? Yes, but a really bad one.