Mario’s at The Star of Bethnal Green

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Let’s face it, the Bethnal Green Road probably wouldn’t be top of most Londoner’s gastronomic hotspots. Sandwiched between the curry and street food mecca of Brick Lane and the foodie havens of Colombia Road and Broadway Market (not to mention the aromatic Vietnamese delights of Kingsland Road and Mare Street to the north and south, respectively), visitors to E1 could be forgiven for beating a hasty retreat to tastier climes. This writer recalls one such visit many years ago to one of the Bethnal’s longest established eateries where, about to devour a forkful of linguine, noticed a shiny metallic staple amongst the putanesca sauce; cue much hullabaloo (and well-worn puns about “staple diet”) and a strong resolve to give Bethnal Green Road a wide berth next time we ventured out with feasting in mind.

Happily, Betty G’s old image as ciabrous Chernobyl is changing. With the likes of unassuming, “world-class” Szechuan restaurant Gourmet San, yuppy-central Pizza East plus arty Redchurch Street’s numerous dining options, enlightened locals and the culinary cognoscenti are all too aware that Bethnal Green’s star is on the up.

One star in particular is leading this restaurant rennaissance, namely The Star of Bethnal Green. With it’s bashed up Chesterfields, trippy murals and guesting DJs, the Star attracts a young but unpretentious crowd of late-night loving locals and laid-back daytime regulars. The newest addition to this thriving gastropub is Mario’s Pizza – the brainchild of manager and resident Italian Mario Denotti. Sourcing only the best ingredients from the famed Caputo family in Napoli (the historical home of pizza, no less), Mario’s pizza is the real deal – a light yet wholesome dough baked to a fine, thin crispy crust; flavoursome, milky mozeralla and a sweetly rich base sauce that only tomatoes ripened by the Mediterranean sun can make.

As we dine on slices of ‘Francescana Knuckles’ and ‘Ricotta Villalobos’ beneath that iconically emaciated image of Bez (who incidentally, looks like he could do with a hot meal), I’m struck by the happy marriage between the chilled ambience of the chic upstairs dining area and the buzzy main bar downstairs.

Indeed, after several bottles of Peroni and Sagres, we couldn’t help but reflect on what a few slices of tasty margherita would’ve done for the much-troubled Hacienda back in the ‘90s. Alas, we’ll never know. But with pizza, booze and Balearic beats aplenty, we reckon the good food and vibes at the Star are a decent alternative.

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