The latest beneficiary of the (north-) eastward sprawl of London’s hyper casual and creative dining scene (or victim of gentrification, depending on one’s perspective), Walthamstow is now home to the latest addition to London’s growing cave (new-wave wine bar) scene, in the form of Forest Bar + Kitchen, as reported by Hot Dinners. Not that owners Jana Postulkova and her husband Ali could easily be accused of opportunism, though; the duo have been operating in Walthamstow, selling a curated selection of organic, natural and low-intervention wines from their shop Forest Wines, since 2014.
Forest Bar + Kitchen, then, has taken over the former estate agent next door to Forest Wines; a small and bright corner frontage centred around a single communal dining table bar. In the kitchen is Nico Salzano, a young cook who hosted a series of popular supper clubs at Clapton’s Palm 2 before learning more of the trade at the diminutive La Cave à Michel in Paris. The menu, which changes weekly — for there are only two services currently; Friday and Saturday nights — is noticeably inspired by Paris’ cave a vin fare; past editions have featured dishes including roast chicken and padrón toastie, as well as burnt cauliflower with anchovy dressing, and pickled egg, pea shoots, and girolles.
Wines following the Forest ethos accompany the dinners; largely organic or biodynamic expressions of varieties produced the world over with minimal intervention — heart-on-sleeve type cuvées as honest and transparent as the cooking aims to be. Naturally, parallels will be drawn to P. Franco (plus, perhaps more tenuously, to Sager + Wilde and 40 Maltby Street), not just in style but in substance too, though this should not detract from the value of Forest. While P. Franco is at the vanguard of the style in London — a playground for some of the city’s most accomplished chefs looking to flex their creativity outside the constraints of a regimented kitchen — Forest is the kind of hyper-local micro restaurant that is becoming more and more popular in an industry plagued by business rate hikes and supply chain woes on one hand, and the steady advance of private equity conglomerates on the other.
Forest says it will open on Fridays and Saturdays throughout February, but will extend its service hours from the start of spring.
Late last year, the owners of Clapton Craft opened Gnarly Vines on Hoe Street, on the border of Leyton and Walthamstow. They too have a large central table from which they say they plan to start serving food in due course.