The Real Wine Drinking Guide: The Laughing Heart
The Laughing Heart opened in 2016, the brainchild of Aussie natural wine fanatic, Charlie Mellor. He hired Tom Anglesea as chef; they now run the business together.
The project is housed in a sizeable space split over two levels: the counter/dining room on the ground floor accommodates 40 guests, whilst in the basement is a wine cellar and off-licence (open until 2am) called The Cave. There is also a private dining room seating up to 20 guests with a separate kitchen for themed dinners and winemaker events. Upstairs, as well as the obligatory Breton Épaulé Jeté poster there is a striking collage by Louise Sheeran made from porous paper dyed with natural wine. The remainder of the artwork, all paintings on loan from Royal College of Art graduates, is rotated regularly. Music is eclectic, fusing 90’s hip-hop, funk, jazz crooners and soul.
The relatively short daily-changing menu comprises around fifteen small sharing plates. There is also a set menu for £39 a head. Vegetarians are particularly well catered for. The Laughing Heart is also a boon if you have the relatively late-night munchies – the kitchen stays open until 1am.
Canny buying and an enlightened mark-up policy make this one of the best-value wine selections in London. Prefaced by an extract from Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale (O for a draught of vintage, that hath been/Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth) the outstanding list fills fifteen pages and is 350 bins long with a constantly-evolving selection of organically and/or biodynamically-farmed wines, fermented with wild yeasts and made with minimal or zero-added sulphur. The selection of by-the-glass is concise with twelve references, changing daily.
Producers we love: Le Coste di Gradoli, Pierre Overnoy, Christian Tschida, Dard et Ribo, Natalino Crognaletti.
Look out for the lesser-spotted: Great selection of back-vintage Cantina Giardino and Le Coste di Gradoli rarities.
We really love: The collaborative themed dinners wherein they decorate the restaurant, select the appropriate music and lighting and design and curate the drinks lists to accompany the specifics of the menu.
Do: Request a Zalto Universal wine glass.
Key wine person(s): Charlie Mellor & Bella Babbit.
277 Hackney Road | London E2 8NA