Rebecca Dickson


Jason Allen 13/04/23


Maene | A Bright, Modern Bistro In Spitalfields

Getting to Maene is a bit of a mission.

It’s set atop a four-storey former Victorian clothing factory on Fashion Street, sandwiched between Brick Lane & Commercial Street. Boy, they sure knew how to name a street back then. You’ll need to look for the M signpost, duck through a yoga studio lobby (appropriately called Mission), locate the lift, and ascend to the very top storey.

What awaits you at the top is another world entirely. The space is light and airy; soft muslin curtains shading the floor to ceiling windows, and abstract clay lamps standing sentinel around curving blue banquettes. If Santorini had undergone an industrial revolution in the 17th century, they would have built warehouses that looked like this. And as the evening wears on, the exposed bulbs suspended across the ceiling flicker into life, and cast a beautiful, warm glow over the place.

maene restaurant

Rebecca Dickson

Expectations should rightly be set to ‘high’ here – because Maene is the latest venture from Nick Gilkinson, also behind the quietly wonderful Townsend in the Whitechapel Gallery. And those expectations are totally nailed, right from the off.

Firstly, the cocktail list is a thing of beauty. Each drink has been configured as an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version; both of which have had the same amount of thought and expertise poured into them. And each is designed to make the most of a surplus ingredient from the kitchen, variously giving new life to potato, coffee grounds, almond pastries and spirulina (heck, we always have a load of that hanging around too). And it turns out that sustainability tastes delicious.

The roof terrace

There’s a creamy, fruity, frothy milk punch created with Black Cow vodka, rhubarb, vermouth and milk, while flat sparkling wine is revived with sherry and apple cordial. Most surprising is the dainty, chilli-dusted glass of luminous orange liquid made with sea buckthorn. This is not, as it turns out, a kind of seaweed, but a hardy coastal berry which tastes, as Nick accurately identifies, of tangfastics (but is apparently packed with antioxidants and all sorts of other perks). Here, that unexpected sweetness is tempered with Earl Grey and smoky agave, plus tequila for the boozy version.

Onto the food, handled with both heart and skill by head chef Amber Francis (ex-Bermondsey Larder). The menu follows in Townsend’s footsteps by taking British ingredients and sculpting them into modern European bistro dishes: you can start with oysters dressed with pickled cucumber and sorrel, or go bigger with a warm, salty jenga pile of puffed-up gnocchi fritti to swoop into stracciatella (made here in London) dotted with chilli, garlic and puréed Iron Cap squash.

maene restaurant

Rebecca Dickson

Scaling up, there’s hearty mains of Cornish mussels with smoked cider, pork loin, and a coco bean cassoulet. Vegetarians are well catered for: try the tomato tart, whose sweet pastry case, both delicate and snappy, cradles juicy tomatoes unearthed at the Gladwin brothers‘ Nutbourne farm in Sussex. For sides, the heritage potatoes are a must-order, all firm and waxy, and served with the most outrageous smoked yoghurt and verdant, garlicky salsa verde.

Finally, you can cap things off with a choice of light desserts that won’t leave you waddling out of there – delicately spiced bayleaf panna cotta, almond ice cream or sea buckthorn sorbet with a little dark chocolate…

…if you fancy something after your Maene course.


NOTE: Maene is open daily – you can book a table here, or try just walking in.

Maene | Top Floor, 7-9 Fashion Street, E1 6PX

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7-9 Fashion Street, Spitalfields, E1 6PX
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020 3011 1081

9.0 | Amazing

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