London’s culinary scene has been thriving for years now, with some of the best restaurants in the city exploring the world’s most delicious cuisines, bringing authentic flavours and lively experiences to tables.
Recently opened by Frank’s Cafe co-owner James Dye and chef Henry Freestone, previously at Crispin and Peckham Cellars, Bambi contributes to the vibrant language everyone seems to be speaking in the U.K. capital these days. Located in Hackney, East London, this new restaurant and wine bar is a not-to-be-missed place to taste small dishes, drink low-intervention wines, and even dance after 10 p.m.
Born in London to parents both working in the culinary industry, following their path was always in Dye’s blood. “Both of my parents were chefs, so I’ve been surrounded by great food all of my life,” he says. So it came as no surprise when he opened Frank’s Cafe with a partner in 2009. Five years later, he opened the independent pub and restaurant Camberwell Arms (since 2017, an award-winning restaurant and public house), and since last November, Bambi has been at the forefront of the East London scene.
“We felt London Fields needed a buzzy neighborhood restaurant and bar, Dye says.” Somewhere you could equally drop in for a glass of wine and a snack or enjoy a few dishes for lunch or dinner with friends.” With DJ and curator Charlie Dark on board, Bambi also installed a DJ booth, a wall of records, and a custom sound system (from hi-fi specialist Friendly Pressure) so it would also be a place to enjoy music while you eat and get ready to dance later in the evening.
The interior is eye-catching but not overdesigned: warm, welcoming, and buzzy, with warm tones, a great sound system, and sharing tables. The restaurant puts music front and centre with an extensive vinyl collection and custom DJ booth. “We also love counter eating, so sitting at the bar and long counters were essential,” Dye says.
Bambi’s dishes are also part of its appeal, thanks to small, fun combinations to share with friends and that pair well with wine: enjoying cauliflower cheese arancini at the bar with Thomas Boutin chenin, oyster happy hour with Landron Chartier Natürlich, a leisurely lunch, and Samuel Cano Aire en el patio, or dinner with friends sharing steak and Domaine Delhomme pinot noir and, of course, seasonal profiterole for dessert.
“The place is all about sharing the food, drink, and music we enjoy,” Dye says. “Henry has brought a fun and casual approach to the food at Bambi. We use the highest-quality ingredients but present them in an informal way.”
The team at Bambi believes that low-intervention is the most natural and honest way to make wine. General manager Sam Leedam ‘s recommendations include Il Mottolo white wine from Veneto, Italy; Blau reds from Roussillon, France; and 2 Naturkinder Heimat Silvaner from Kitzingen, Germany.
Photography by Clare Lewington.