I first came to the Marksman back in 2016, dined upstairs and thought it was solid that review can be seen here. It feels like its got its feet firmly on the worn carpets that a good old boozer is synonymous for. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Downstairs where you can dine too, you’ll get dark wood panelling, local brews on tap with padded wooden chairs and stools for lingering. You’ll have to walk up some steep steps to get to the main dining area where things are rustic like a farm house dining room, it’s minimal simplicity is a blessing. They have a selection of things that once swam or once walked the land. But what I’ve come back for are the heavenly beef and barley buns with horse radish cream. More on them in a bit.
So onto those beef and barley buns £5, they are a perfectly lacquered ball of squish accommodating slow reduced beef stew and chewy barley. Break into it and you get a puff of steam and an intense beefiness. The horse radish cream has the consistency to be quenelle’d on the side with more of the stuff grated on top. It has the nostril singeing qualities that make good friends with beef and my fat mouth. They’re so simple but so rewarding to eat, I can’t get enough of them and ordered two this time around.
Brown crab on toast £10 has the colour of freshly mixed cement but has all the distinct silky flavours you’ll find deep in the shell cavity of the crustacean. At a fiver a finger though, your wallet will know about it.
Things got better with the snails £9. The deeply earthy morsels on toasted sour dough, could have been easily mistaken for wild mushrooms of some sort as they have that unmistakable earthiness. They were also crested with shards of crispy pigs skins and nestled in a pool of pulsed aromatic lovage.
Onto the mains..
Plaice with brown shrimp and sea purslane £21 was a puddle of jus and butter. It was a great piece of fish cookery, but at £21 we felt a bit short changed.
Ox tongue with tomato and horse radish £18 was a duff moment. It tasted like it was buried in a bucket of salt for decade, it had me reaching for cups of water like a thirsty Marathon runner. It was as yielding as a hard slap in the chops with a salt shaker too. We left most of it and our waitress asked no questions. I wished I ordered another beef bun to take away the taste.
Braised purple kale £4 required some serious jaw work too, and I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t there.
Sanctuary in a bowl comes in the form of their “fried potatoes” £4. It’s a classic case in point when the menu writer undersells how much precision and labour goes into making a humble potato into something so profound. Imagine sheets of the crispiest potato you’ve ever had pressed together that makes an emphatic crunch when you bite into it, it makes the trip worth it. And if that’s not enough to get you going, there is onion mayonnaise for dipping that has all the notes of sweet caramelised onion.
When did I go? Aug 2017
The damage: Expect to pay £60-65 per head with beer
The good: Cutting to the chase, if the Marksman has a USP then the beef & barley buns is it. I came back for them as they eclipsed everything else then, they did so again and the fried potatoes are not far behind.
The bad: Some nice cookery could be had here, some misses and big hits.
Would I go again? My time will come!
Address: 254 Hackney Rd, London E2 7SJ