This review was originally published in 2020. All’s Well was a temporary pop-up and closed in 2021.
At the end of the first lockdown in July, Tredwells formally announced that it was under the sole ownership of chef patron Chantelle Nicholson. That decoupling from Marcus Wareing’s group had in fact happened some time before but this summer’s re-opening of restaurants seemed an appropriate time to make it ‘official’. Those lockdown months weren’t entirely lost either as Chantelle and team worked hard to prepare the Covent Garden restaurant for a new direction: the formal tablecloths were dispensed with, the heavier green paint of its original 2014 iteration replaced with a lighter shade, the bar stripped back and plants installed, all giving the restaurant a new lease of life.
Keeping Tredwells ‘2.0’ ticking over in this market is undoubtedly a huge challenge in itself but nothing seems to stop former-lawyer-turned-culinary-force-of-nature, Chantelle. Law has some very useful transferable skills for hospitality: a keen eye for detail, capacity to work long hours, not being fazed by challenge, though most lawyers would avoid risk like the plague. That hasn’t deterred Chef Chantelle. Just before the second lockdown, she opened All’s Well in Hackney as a three month residency over winter and a home delivery service.
On the visit to the dine-in pop-up on Mare Street, it was busy and diners were appropriately spaced apart, which were pleasing to see. The makeshift venue with its second-hand furniture (literally everything is sustainable) was set up with remarkable speed; you wouldn’t really know that they only got the keys to the site just two weeks before.
Sitting at the bar with a view of the pass I sipped on a fig leaf Martini made by master mixologist, Dav Eames. Ordinarily I wouldn’t countenance any chlorophyllic interference with a classic cocktail but the leafy notes here were subtle. It’s also available for delivery, as is the beetroot Negroni (which I’ve yet to try).
Whilst the ‘rona has overshadowed everything this year, the concept of All’s Well is very much of the moment, perhaps even a template for restaurants of the future: over 80% of the menu is plant-based, the emphasis is on using seasonal British produce, they work with local organic wineries such as Renegade in Bethnal Green, and do everything possible to minimise waste. That all sounds wonderfully wholesome on paper but does the food taste good? Yes. Yes it does.
To accompany my Martini I nibbled on some crispy potato skins with ‘scallopolata’ – a taramasalata made with scallop roe – which made for a delightful snack at the aperitif stage. Heck, I’d happily scoop that up for lunch any day of the week.
International influences abound, whether it be the Yemenite zhoug with the roasted Jerusalem artichokes, or the Korean swede kimchi with the lamb ribs (the lamb is sourced from Horton House Farm in Wiltshire). It’s a truly eclectic mix and you can see Chantelle is having some fun here, whilst building on her successful solo book Planted.
Even Brussels sprouts get a small dish of their own. I know, I know; sprouts always bring back painful memories of school and office lunches of Christmasses past. But I maintain it’s all about the way they’re cooked. Here they’re deep-fried with vermouth vinegar which shows them off in an entirely new light.
Cavolo nero in a roast chicken broth with slow-cooked egg, Winchester cheese and emmer wheat was perhaps a little ‘conventional’ but it was by no means bland. Clearly a lot of work had gone in to making the broth, making for a very comforting dish on a wintry night.
As for the home delivery option, safe transit always presents an issue but unlike other delivery services there was a notable absence of plastic: each item arrives in recyclable boxes, glasses or jam jars, and any warming up instructions are sent by email.
This was also a great opportunity to try some of the dishes I didn’t get the chance to on the dine-in visit. The hot smoked chalk stream trout with watercress and crème fraiche was fresh and delicious. Pork and ‘nduja dumplings were divine, wallowing in a broth like liquefied roast pork with the occasional kick of spice from the ‘nduja. And then a chouxnut – the ultimate portmanteau of choux pastry and a doughnut – with “hedgerow jam”. The fruit in the jam remained undisclosed (Islington’s finest berries I hope) but it was vibrant and tasty without being cloyingly sweet. There was some leftover in the jar so, as any civilised human being would do, I finished that off with my croissant the next day. Bonus.
As the worst year in living memory appears to be ending on an optimistic note, it seems appropriate for Chantelle and team to channel the Bard’s play All’s Well That Ends Well (whilst government policy seems to be a very unfunny Comedy of Errors). This is delicious food that will lift your spirits so get yourselves down to Hackney and/or order a home delivery whilst you can.
Editor’s note: as the dine-in restaurant is a pop-up, and half of this review is about the delivery service, we have decided this is exempt from our usual restaurant grading system
171 Mare Street
by J A Smith