Arch 376, 10 Helmsley Place, E8 3SB
0207 249 9906/https://www.the-institute-of-light.com
The Institute of Light, the brainchild of architect Jo Hagan and photographer Mark Bayley, is a new cultural hub situated in Hackney’s London Fields under the railway arches in Helmsley Place. I love this area-I first discovered it last year at the launch of Thai pop-up Som-Saa a couple of arches down from the IOL and there is a real buzz and independent edge about this new district that differentiates it from much of the East End.The site combines a large space under the arches that holds an art-house repertory cinema, a vinyl record store curated by independent record label BBE [Barely Breaking Even], restaurant and bar, a coffee shop and bookshop run by Pages of Hackney. It opens up onto a courtyard that is perfect for summer night revels and to celebrate this summer’s Rio Olympics IOL have partnered with Brazilian event organisers MargoCamilo to launch ‘Rio Boteco’- a Brazilian pop-up take on the“corner shop pub” featuring a pimped up menu of ‘traditional tapas and street food, complimented by a fusion of traditional Brazilian comfort dishes.’ I’ve been invited to have a look around and sample the food and drink offer which frames Brazilian ingredients such as cassava, dende oil, salt cod, coconut and seafood, in a more contemporary way than is traditional.If you don’t feel like a whole meal you can sit at the bar or outside in the sun snacking on ‘Bolinhos de bacalhau’ (salted cod fish fishcakes), pasteis (crispy savoury pastries) and cassava chips with a Brazilian Cachaça cocktail or a classic Caipirinha. The IOL bar also stocks local artisan distillers/brewers with draft ales from Five Point brewery, gin and vodka from East London Liquor Company, a selection of craft bottled beers from local London breweries and a twist – prosecco on tap!After a delicious Caipirinha we tried the Pastel de Siri- a crab and lime deep-fried pie with an aromatic pepper sauce (£7). The pastry was unexpectedly crisp and dry with the crabmeat still retaining its flavour and freshness.The cucumber, mango, Palm heart and black sesame (£6) salad was totally new to me with the Palm heart and mango combination in particular being something of a taste revelation! Moqueca de peixe e camarão – a fresh seafood stew with coconut and palm oil curry, coconut rice and cassava mash (£12.50) was an expression of classic Brazilian flavours and textures but delivered in a much more refined manner than I have experienced before.The Mahi-mahi fillet, cooked in a banana leaf and served with a cassava mash (£10) was wonderfully moist and flavoured with a hint of thyme.Vaca Malandra Slow were cooked short ribs on the bone coming with cassava gratin and watercress (£16.50). The ribs were tender, rich and sweet and absolutely delicious. Homemade Brazilian crème caramel (£3.50) was a classic Iberian flan with a great caramel sauce and caramelised banana was similarly good with a creamy home-made cinnamon ice-cream (£4.50).
I was surprised at the quality of the food at Rio Boteco and with pricing that is very reasonable and groovy Brazilian sounds playing it’s a must-go for this summer. Rio Boteco will be open Wednesday to Sunday weekly from Wednesday 8th June until Sun 28 August. Cinedining tickets are £9, regular seats £6.
The IOL’s cinema will showcase a challenging cultural programme of Brazilian films, curated by Secret Cinema alumnus Harry Ross, and will run in four distinctive strands: Cinedining, where guests can enjoy the restaurant menu in front of the big screen; Light Night, an exploration of Image and Structure in Film with both classic and lesser-known titles selected for their dynamic visual impact; Light Now, a weekly screening where a film relevant to current events is exhibited without disclosing the title before the opening titles; and Members’ Choice, where two films a week are chosen and voted for by the IOL members.