Step inside Saltine, Highbury’s light-filled dining hotspot

Saltine serves bright seasonal fare in a setting inspired by natural light and honest materials

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton
(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

After establishing four colourful coffee shops in North and East London under Fink’s, Jess Blackstone and Mat Appleton have made their first foray into the world of restaurants with Saltine. Situated on Highbury Park, their newest venture is not only more gastronomic but more grown-up when it comes to design. Open Wednesday to Sunday for coffee, lunch and dinner, it comprises a chic, understated bar at the front and a gallery-like, glass-roofed dining area at the rear.

Saltine is Highbury’s new neighbourhood restaurant from the team behind Fink’s

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

‘As soon as we walked in and saw the way the light streamed through the skylight, we fell in love with the space,’ says Blackstone. Formerly home to a high-street chicken shop, the site was an empty shell, but the duo saw beauty in its imperfections, from the cracked concrete floor to the crumbling brick and plaster walls. ‘The building had lots of character that we immediately wanted to preserve,’ Blackstone continues, ‘And we wanted to create something that would patinate nicely over time.’

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

Blackstone, an artist who previously worked with 6a Architects on her own RIBA-nominated home, led the design process. ‘Honest materials are really important to me,’ she says. ‘I don’t like to cover things up for the sake of it.’ The use of raw, soft-grey tile adhesive on the walls in the bar and in part of the dining room is particularly noteworthy for its tactile appearance. Elsewhere, resin-cast wood wool has been used for the ceiling and promises pleasing acoustics.

The interiors have been minimally decorated so as not to distract from the light and materials. There’s personality, though, in the carefully sourced vintage wooden chairs – 1970s Bruno Rey chairs in the bar and 1970s Lübke chairs in the dining room – and the bespoke Douglas fir seating booths. A trio of acacia pravissima trees (tall, fern-like evergreens) bring a lush touch to the space.

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

In contrast, the boldly painted bathrooms are likely to surprise and delight off-guard guests. Artist Paul Kindersley has created vibrant yellow and green murals depicting abstract nude figures dancing across the walls and ceilings. Those with eagle eyes may well spot small snippets of Kindersley’s figures in the dining room too.

Saltine might be playfully named after a cracker Blackstone describes as ‘bland,’ but the food is anything but. Previously of Spring and St John Marylebone, chef Phil Wood’s menu will change with the seasons but will always offer inventive takes on classic dishes: chicken liver parfait with saltines, braised mutton with carrots and caraway, and sticky toffee apple cake, for instance.

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

Artwork by Paul Kindersley

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

saltine highbury north london jess blackstone mat appleton

Artwork by Paul Kindersley

(Image credit: Photography: Harriet Langford. Courtesy of Saltine)

As Blackstone says, ‘The restaurant has been designed to frame the food. Both the menu and design are inspired by honest, simple ingredients and materials that we have treated beautifully.’

saltine.co.uk