Il Cudega, Hackney
Il Cudega is hidden under the arches of a railway line in deepest Hackney. For London, at large, the location is a bit ‘left-field’, though for Hackney-ites, the restaurant is right in the thick of it, just off London Fields (at the end of Broadway Market). The restaurant is Italian enough that you feel it could have been superimposed into the area, and perhaps it will need time to mould itself into the surroundings, but it’s off to a good start. As is always a good sign with any restaurant, both the co-owners were present, as was the head-chef, and all the staff were charming, friendly and attentive, to everyone. The restaurant has just opened, and so the edges need to soften, but with enough keen-mouths through the door, the place will wear in beautifully.
This particular evening was special: it was themed. Named, ‘Gorgonzola Night’, or ‘Notte di Gorgonzola’, the 4 course meal, not including a serving of panettone to finish us both off, was comprised of Gorgonzola, including dessert. I came on the date with a cheese-crazy, and so the sight of Gorgonzola made his eyes light up. All the food was great quality, authentic Italian produce, and it was a brilliant combination of classical and experimental. There were a few outstanding elements; for the antipasto, there was a just opened Gorgonzola ‘Croce’. Merely 14 –days old the cheese was immature, and soft, but with a twang, and it was a first for me. The secondo was fantastic, enjoyed immensely by both of us: polenta vol-au-vent with black wild mushrooms, trifola di porcini and tarassaco Lombardo leaves: delicious. As an ice-cream fanatic myself, the meal’s denouement was the most thrilling, and nerve-wracking. Of course, it was Gorgonzola flavoured. It was good, and again, I had never had it before. A perfect wrap-up to the culinary adventure that evening.
Supper-club themed evenings are great for those early dating days: the evening is structured, with a beginning and an end. The meal is paired with fantastic wines, and so the whole evening is an experience in itself, which is nice to share with someone new. The kitchen is open, the staff are friendly, and it makes for a comfortable setting, on the whole. You can also buy some local Italian produce to take home which could make for a special gift to give to your crush, or to take home for yourself.
The food is a serious feature of the evening, and together with the fabulous wines, the meal is rich. This can take away the edge of cracking onto a new chirpse, but for a late weekday evening, or a more relaxed weekend meal, it is perfect.
Il Cudega has just opened, and the vibe would suit a décor which has been broken into, as if it’s been there for generations. As it is, the lighting is a bit harsh. Once they’ve dimmed the lights, and there is a bit of rust, wear and tear, the place will do well.