Newly opened on Mare St in Hackney, Empress Market is an independent bar and kitchen based on Karachi street food cafes. For lunch and dinner the focus is on small plates of Pakistani food and on a Sunday, they serve a Pakistani brunch and bottomless tea infused cocktails.
Run by two friends Numra and Sara, Numra was the face behind Bun Kabab, a Pakistani food stall and supper club. Influenced by family recipes, street food and the London food scene, Numra wanted to bring something different to Hackney. Sara created Sister Slush, an alcoholic slushy bar and is in charge of the drinks at Empress Market. We tried the Vodka Spiced Chai, a mix of chai infused vodka, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters and Regans’ orange bitters No.6. Light and refreshing, we could happily sip one or two (or four) of these on a warm summer’s evening.
The dinner menu is split in vegetarian and meat dishes which range from £3 to £8 and are designed for sharing. We opted for two veggie dishes to start; Alloo Tikki (spiced potato cutlet with onion and peas) and the Baingan ka Bhurta (smoked aubergine cooked in tomato and yoghurt). The aubergine had most of it’s flesh scooped out and mixed with the spiced tomato filling. The aubergines were well cooked, not too mushy not too hard (we’re like Goldilocks when it comes to food!) and the filling had a good depth of flavours. The alloo tikki had less spices and benefitted from the homemade chutneys and raita brought to the table.
Following this, we tried the Beef Nihari, a slow cooked beef stew, and Sukhi Mung Daal, a spiced yellow mung bean daal. Numra told us that the beef nihari is normally saved for special occasions but we’d happily eat this for any occasion! Rich and spicy with tender beef pieces, you’ll want a naan or two to dip into the remaining sauce. The sukhi mung daal was dry, which is different to any other we’ve ever had, and went really well with the stew as a completely different, complementary texture.
To finish, we squeezed in some vanilla ice cream with halva and pistachios. Like a cookie dough ice cream, it was a great way to end the meal!
Empress Market is open for lunch 11.30-3 and dinner 6-10. Brunch is served on Sundays 10-6 and includes the option to go bottomless for £10! For more information, visit: www.empressmarket.co.uk