This is the kind of place that inspires people to get into hospitality.
From its intimate atmosphere and welcoming team, to the passion that goes into every dish, Rogues is an operation born out of a love of restaurants.
You’ll find it tucked out of sight just off the main stretch of Hackney Road, and when you walk inside you’ll likely be greeted from behind the bar by Freddie Sheen who – alongside chef Zac Whittle – is the owner, operator and driving force behind the whole show. The pair met while working as head chef & senior sous at the Michelin-Starred Galvin La Chapelle, quickly realising that they shared the same culinary styles & values. They then decided to, well, go rogue by building their own brand the hard way, without any huge bank or capital fund backing them. They hosted pop-up after pop-up at the Hackney Coffee Company, until eventually securing the shell of a former pizza place nearby which they’ve now turned (literally brick-by-brick) into their own restaurant.
The space is understandably small, but beautiful nevertheless – they styled it after their pop up (apparently they simply “clicked, dragged and dropped” the design of their venue over the road) with burnt peach plaster walls wrapped around a few midcentury furnishings and a small wooden bar. The music is an old school mix of nostalgic indie classics, and the day’s menu is scrawled on a blackboard in the corner – there are no paper copies, nor anything online.
And as for what’s on that blackboard? It defies simple categorisation, spanning any and all culinary cultures that appeal to Zac & Freddie. As they put it, their menu style is simply “food they like to eat”. And apparently, they like to eat small plates running from razor clams with apple & chestnut puree; a warm loaf of potato & thyme bread with nested dollops of walnut & bovril butter; a rich, smoky fillet of sea trout with wild garlic sauce; a fat wedge of roasted hispi cabbage with mussels & katsu curry; and a Wagyu skirt steak with delicate leaves of pickled onions.
The chefs will frequently deliver dishes to your table personally, effusing about their inspiration. The rhubarb & magnolia trifle, for instance, comes out under an elegantly theatrical glass cloche, and exists simply because Zac has a magnolia tree growing in his garden. It doesn’t hurt that the combination is absolutely delicious, too. And helping to ease it all down there’s a tightly curated list of excellent natural wines & classic cocktails, all of which are kept at reasonable prices (though even they can stack up if you’re not careful).
The pair have poured their hearts & souls into this operation, and it shows. So if you’re looking for a great new restaurant experience?
You should go Rogue yourself.
NOTE: Rogues Hackney is open now, Wednesday-Sunday. You can find out more, and make a booking at their website right here.
Rogues | 460 Hackney Road, E2 9EG
Main image: Alisha Edge – @aliedgephotography
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