On entering, Rita’s may look and feel quite understated: a small diner with white canteen tables leading to the bar and an open kitchen towards the back.
You’ll find a Frozen Rita (margarita, get it?) is a flamingo pink, slushied distraction whilst you choose what to feast on, and the guys at the bar are more than happy to share their knowledge on the mysterious liquors lining the walls.
Rita’s food is, however, definitely not understated: it’s a curious, yet interesting menu that fuses American food with hints of Asian flavours… You’ll find treats like fried cheese (yes, exactly that in crispy breadcrumbs), grits and fried chicken, alongside the more exotic sounding spiced noodles with pig’s head ham, as well as offerings of toban and congee. You will find yourself asking for help (or googling) whilst ordering.
My fave: the Red cooked pork belly and kale was deliciously tender and packed with soy and spicy seasoning. I chose to have a side of the Green chilli mac and cheese (well who can say no to that?), which had plenty of soft oozing cheese and slices of green chilli, avocado and coriander sprinkled on top. Who knew the two would pair so well? The Ox cheek, rice & barley congee & nam prik kha is a pretty little bowl of intrigue, although my friend hurriedly ordered a side with it.
As for dessert there’s more choices to confuse you: coconut and lemongrass pudding with mango, dulce de leche beignets – are you brave enough to add foie gras to this? – and a daily Rita pie. The duche de leche beignets (sans foie gras) were more than enough to share and the chocolate and rum pie was rich and equally as filling.
Rita’s is open for lunch, brunch and dinner – so take your pick. Daily specials are constantly evolving – just take a look at their instagram pictures and you’ll be swooning over even more intriguing concoctions. Rita’s now have a new weekend brunch menu 12-4pm.
Rita’s Bar and Dining has reasonable prices especially in this part of Hackney, though you will find adding sides to your main is necessary if you like a full plate of meat, veg and carbs. Sharing your dishes is encouraged (as stated on the menu) and you can find many quirky daily specials. Don’t forget to book, as it gets busy quickly, and the bar is quite small to wait at.
Rita, I will be back for more.
Value for money: roughly £30-35 per head including main, sides, dessert and drinks.
Rita’s Bar and Dining | 175 Mare Street London E8 3RH
Images © Rita’s Bar and Dining.