Conformity is an essential part of the human experience. It’s why you don’t see people running bollock naked through the streets, or setting stray cats on fire. It’s why anyone with Asian parents is expected to be a doctor or lawyer, and why we don’t start drinking at 10 o’clock every morning. It’s also why most pubs aren’t expected to serve anything beyond pies and roasts, if they serve food at all.
The Marksman isn’t ‘most pubs’, and it certainly isn’t conforming. It’s an old Victorian pub on the Hackney Road run by two guys who, between them, cooked at the iconic restaurant St John and Jamie Oliver’s flagship Fifteen restaurant. In other words, these guys know what they’re doing. And at the Marksman, they’re doing what they damn well please.
It turns out that ‘what they damn well please’ means some pretty incredible food. The menu at The Marksman is broadly British, but it’s nothing like what you’d expect at your local boozer. The beef and barley bun is very tasty and should always be ordered, and the cured Tamworth pork belly is also excellent if you love anything slow-cooked and meaty. They have one of the best Sunday roasts in London, and there’s a proper lineup of beers and cask ales. Barring the lack of the huge plasma screen showing Sky Sports 24/7, the downstairs feels exactly the same as it did before The Marksman became a place that people would travel to to eat brilliant food.
There are crucial differences between The Marksman and your average local, though. The polished service feels more like a restaurant than a pub, so don’t expect the same level of banter. And while the odd local still comes in for a pint, it’s very much an eating establishment these days, reflected by the Scandi-looking upstairs dining room. But that’s about it for the ‘downsides’.
The Marksman is a serious destination restaurant, and all the better for it. Your mum will love it. Your mates will love it. And here, no one will judge you for ordering a pint at 10 o’clock in the morning. Hows that for conformity?
An appropriate start to the meal. The bread’s lovely and malty - ask for extra butter.
Nice and refreshing - the pear makes it feel extra posh. Eat these on the outdoor terrace while looking down at the commoners.
The bun reminds us of a Chinese-style bun, while the mince and gravy inside these is properly comforting.
Basically steak tartare - nothing says ‘proper bloke’ more than eating a French bistro dish in a gentrified East London boozer. It’s really tasty.
This is the ‘slow-cooked, meaty’ portion of the menu, and it’s the best damn part. Don’t like fat? Go to the Detox Kitchen.
Just a simple, fresh seafood dish that lets you get stuck into the fun of eating, although saying those words out loud will probably get you beat up outside a Wetherspoons.
If there’s curry on the menu, get it. Even if you’re eating by yourself and you ordered everything else. ‘But the bun!’. Just get the curry.
The best fried potatoes that you’ll ever eat.
This is one of the best things you can do to treat yourself in London. Sod massages and mimosas - what you really want is their posh chicken and mushroom pie.