Saturday, 28 June 2008

Fish House

126-128 Lauriston Road
Victoria Park Village
E9 7LH

Find Fish House on Google Maps

Quick Ratings
Food : Very Good (if you stick to the fish and chips) average otherwise
Coffee : Don't know
Price : A bit high for fish and chips - but worth it!
Service : Friendly and efficient
Meals Served : Breakfast Lunch Dinner

The Food
The Fish House is not your average chippy. It is a chippy, but it's also a trendy restaurant with glass tables and modern art on the walls, befitting the upscale Victoria Park location. Their fish and chips (£9.50 eat in/£6.50 takeaway) definitely rank in the Premier League of this particular British delicacy - and at that price they had better. The batter is golden brown and very crispy, the fish underneath is succulent and meaty, the chips usually perfect, and the mushy peas are among the finest I have ever sampled.

But, as this is a restaurant as well as a takeaway, they also do restaurant food. On a recent visit my dining partner and I hesitantly ventured away from this place's staple dish and tried a few of the other things on offer. I had the crab, avocado and endive salad (£8.95). It was a bit uninteresting and bland - with raw red onions totally killing my palette. At home I usually soak my raw onions in salt water to bring down their volume before adding them to a salad. My partner had the fish cakes with a poached egg and hollandaise (£7.95). Again these were not very impressive - they were basically potato cakes with a little fish added for flavour. She felt that there was not enough hollandaise and another egg would have been better.

This being a traditional-ish chippy they also have jars of pickles on the counter. I felt I had to do my duty and try a pickled egg (50p) - which I only enjoyed after a little salt and pepper were added. For those who are health conscious, all the fish is available grilled as well as fried.

The wine
Fish House has a good wine list but annoyingly, the only glasses they offer are massive 250ml ones - the equivalent to a third of a bottle.

I would really like to try the desserts here, but am always too stuffed to even attempt it. The last few times I've been here, they've had a tempting rhubarb Eton mess (£4.50) on the blackboard.

While doing a bit of research I just found out that the fish house now does breakfast. Go to the London Review of Breakfasts to read what they have to say.

Monday to Friday 12pm to 10pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am - 10 pm (breakfast menu from 11am to 2pm)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Premises

201-209 Hackney Road
London E2 8JL
Tel: 0207 684 2230

Find the Premises on Google Maps.

Quick Ratings
Food : Very Good
Coffee : Below Average
Price : Reasonable
Service : Friendly and efficient
Meals Served : Breakfast Lunch Dinner

The Food
The Premises is a very good Turkish cafe that also has all the usual suspects that a traditional English cafe would offer (all day breakfasts, jacket potatoes, etc). My favourite dish here is the kofte in spicy tomato sauce with rice. The salads are generous, very fresh and interesting; which justifies their slightly above-average price. The Mediterranean salad is like a mezze plate which includes a walnut taboulleh, hummus, tzatziki, olives and feta cheese.

The Story
The Premises Cafe is attached to the rehearsal and recording studios of the same name. Many well-known musical acts have used these studios and there are signed publicity photos lining the walls to prove it. This place exudes a hip vibe as many of the faces in this tightly-packed restaurant look as though you should recognize them. In fact during a recent lunch Lily Allen was having lunch with her entourage at the table next to ours.

Wednesday to Sunday 8am to 11pm
Tuesday 8am to 6pm

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Bar Kick

127 Shoreditch High Street
London E1 6JE
Tel: 020 7739 8700

Find Bar Kick on Google Maps.

Every time I pass this place while taking the bus home on a Friday or Saturday night it's packed to capacity, with hip twenty-somethings quaffing bottled Peroni beer and spilling out onto the pavement. It never really looked like the kind of place I would enjoy; I never gave a passing thought to crossing the threshold of this establishment. That is until a friend told me that they actually do some decent food that's prepared on the premises. Sounds like a mission for East End Eats, thought I!

So with my assignment in hand I decided to give it a try for a casual Sunday brunch, to avoid the aforementioned crowds. And what a pleasant surprise it was to find a really unique bar that has good food.

Cafe Kick's main room is spacious and festooned with flags from many nations. Mellow hip hop and electronica music at a reasonable volume set the vibe here. The main draw for the young crowd is the table football - of which there are three games on the ground level and a few more downstairs.

Food is definitely not the main reason people come here. But despite this, it is surprisingly good and interesting.

I had the cream of asparagus soup with polenta dumplings (£4) and my dining companion and I both had the gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and sage (£8).

The soup was thick and filling enough to be a meal on its own. It was a smooth and subtle soup, as it should be. But the polenta dumplings needed a little more cooking as they seemed to be pretty much raw.

The gnocchi dish, a hearty and large portion, was lemony, buttery and garnished with fresh spicy rocket. The cherry tomatoes provided nice bursts of sweet succulence throughout.

All the dishes that passed by our table on their way to other diners looked as good as what we had; and all the plates returned to the kitchen empty - always a good sign. I look forward to returning and trying more things here - maybe even a game of baby foot next time!

Bar open:
Mon – Weds: 12 noon – 11pm
Thurs – Sat: 12 noon – Midnight
Sun: 12 noon – 10.30pm
Kitchen open:
Mon - Fri 12-3 and 6pm-10pm
Sat: 12 noon – Midnight
Sun: 12 noon – 10.30pm

Saturday, 26 April 2008


316 Queensbridge Road
London E8 3NH
Tel: 020 7249 6727

Find LMNT on Google Maps.

LMNT (pron. element) is a beautiful anachronism. One of my dining companions remarked upon approaching the establishment, "I didn't know there was a museum around here."

And he should be forgiven his comment - this gastropub looks like no other I have seen - with its exterior and interior bedecked with memorabilia from the time of the Pharaohs. They claim to have "The most eccentric dining room . . . " And they do, with a sphinx here, a ra there, and hieroglyphics everywhere.

I have been here three times in the last month or so and every time I find it so refreshing to step into a London restaurant that is not self-conscious and self-important. In fact, it seems as if LMNT enjoys poking fun at itself, saying, "Look at me. I like to enjoy myself. I am not very serious."

The food, however, is seriously good. And at £9.95 for a main and £3.95 for starters (£7.95 and £2.95 at lunch time) this place is a also serious bargain.

It all starts with a creamy soft hummus served with fresh bread, compliments of the chef.

The quest for good quality is evident in the wine list as well as in their choice of draught beer - which is in my opinion the best lager ever - the Czech Budweiser, Budvar. The only place on the menu that follows the Egyptian theme is the cocktail menu. I am not normally a cocktail drinker but after watching the barperson meticulously concoct what I later found out was a Bleeding Cleopatra, I knew I needed to try one. I highly recommend this delicious and fruity vodka-based drink.

You could easily make a meal by choosing three or four different starters. The puy lentil and feta cheese salad is just perfection in its pairing of two simple and subtle savoury ingredients. The same could be said for their sardines on a bed of caramelised parsnips. They then take perfection to another level altogether with their holy trinity of a field mushroom, wilted spinach and poached egg.

And it continues with the main dishes. The confit of duck is amazing in its combination of crispy skin, fat and soft tender meat. The only thing that was not up to these high standards was the carrot and apple mash that accompanies the duck. It was generally agreed at our table that this accompaniment was watery and lacked flavour. I''ll forgive them this small sin - after all, the chefs seem to be perfectionists and I am sure will correct this in the future.

The pork belly is so delicious that I could seriously consider giving up all other meat for LMNT's version of this dish.

LMNT is a rising star on the East End food scene. LMNT II was recently opened in Clerkenwell and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more activity from these guys in the future.

OPEN Mon-Sat 12 noon - 11pm
Sunday 12 noon - 10.30pm

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Gallery Cafe

21 Old Ford Road
Bethnal Green
London E2 9PL
Tel. 0208 983 3624

Locate on Google Maps.

The Gallery Cafe is a tranquil oasis near the intersection of Old Ford Road and Cambridge Heath Road. I like to head here after a good workout at York Hall leisure centre, which is right next door. To get to the entrance of this place, you first walk though their outdoor seating and down a few steps into the cafe. Normally, restaurants downstairs are dark and gloomy, but not this place - even on a typical dark and overcast London day, the Gallery Cafe is bright and airy. The front of the restaurant is lined with windows and the rear consists of a bright conservatory which extends out behind the building.

As you enter, there's a counter to the right where you place your order. The menu is presented on boards behind the counter One of the boards explains, "All the food we serve is vegeterian, except that which is vegan," (or something to that effect).

The prices are good here, allowing two to have a satisfying lunch for around £9.

I have eaten here many times and have only been disappointed once, and that was with the veggie bangers and mash. My dining companion and I agreed that you can't beat sausages made with pig meat!

Here's a quick rundown of what I have eaten at the Gallery Cafe:

Spaghetti Bolognese - a delicious meatless version of spag bol served over a generous portion of pasta.

Jacket potato with goat's cheese - this is a sublime treat. The potato skin tastes like it was gently brined before being baked in a real oven (it was served too quickly to have been cooked in a microwave and must have been baked ahead of time.)

Spaghetti with pesto - the pesto appears to have been made fresh and with real extra virgin olive oil. My only criticism of this dish is that every time I order it my portion is very meagre - perhaps this is indicative of the precious nature of their pesto.

Chilli sin carne - a meatless version of chilli con carne is a nice treat to warm you up on a cold day. Chock full of meaty beans, chunky carrots and mushrooms - it goes down a treat.

A welcome bonus, which is free, comes from the self serve jugs containing water infused with flavour by slices of orange. Very refreshing and a nice touch.

Also on offer is a selection of cakes and pies that look as if they were made on the premises. I haven't tried these but they look good.

The coffee and teas are all organic. The coffee is above average for London - but not great.

Opening Hours
Mondays to Fridays
From 9 to 5
From 10 to 6
Sundays 11 to 4

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Santa Maria de Buen Ayre

Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ
Locate on Google Maps
Tel. 020 7275 9900

There isn't anything better than a top-notch steak that's been properly grilled. Buen Ayre's customers know that and that's why it's hard to get a table at this Broadway Market hotspot.

Since it opened it has won praise from the food press, with the Independent calling it "the first authentic Argentine grill-restaurant in the country . . . " Well, I've never been to Argentina but I can say that the steaks I have had at Buen Ayre are among the best I've had, ever! They are grilled on a genuine Argentinean parilla (grill) that is situated right in the main dining room and then delivered straight to the table. The steaks themselves are buttery smooth, tender, and melt in the mouth while the smoky flavours imparted by the red hot coals invigorate and soothe your taste buds. I would go so far as to say that eating a steak at Buen Ayre is an erotic experience.

On a recent visit four of us spent £126 for a starter of crisps, peanuts and olives, four steaks, three bowls of chips, three salads, and drinks that did not even include a whole bottle of wine. If everything else was as good as the steaks I wouldn't mind paying £30 a head. But at these prices I want to be wowed by everything that appears on the table.

Unfortunately, once you move away from the steaks at Buen Ayre the disappointments begin. The first let down was the butter bean guarnacion (garnish) that comes with each steak. The beans we were served were mealy and not much care had been taken with their preparation.

Next was the rĂșcula y ajo (rocket and garlic) salad. At the prices this place is charging I would expect at least an interesting, expertly-prepared dressing - but what we were presented with was basically a bunch of leaves thrown into a bowl with garlic and lemon juice. It was OK - but not special, like the steaks.

The chips are another thing that let this restaurant down. They are cut thick, and served very fresh out of the fryer but have no flavour whatsoever. I felt like I was eating them just for the sake of it, because I was going to pay for them; not because I wanted to eat them! The least the chef could do would be to salt them just after cooking and before they leave the kitchen. By the time the chips get to the table they are too dry for salt to cling to them. Come on guys, this is basic chip physics!

I would still recommend you give Buen Ayre a try - but only for the meat, and only when you are feeling flush.

Opening Hours
Mondays to Fridays
From 6pm to 10.30pm
Saturdays & Sundays
From 12 Noon to 10.30pm

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Oh! Cafe at Oxford House

Derbyshire Street
Bethnal Green
London E2 6HG
Locate on Google Maps.
Phone: 020 7739 9001

The Oh! Cafe is a place I have been going to for about a year now. It serves as the canteen for Oxford House but is also open to the general public with seating for maybe 25 people. It's a good spot to grab a well-prepared, inexpensive and filling lunch. (Oxford House is a community organisation that was established in 1884 and is involved in a variety of youth, immigration, arts & community work.)

The cafe's specials board usually features dishes like curry, chilli con carne, and Moroccan lamb or chicken. The regular menu has a wide range of the usual jacket potatoes as well as panini. The mains are always delicious and consist of generous portions accompanied by a salad of fresh greens and cost £3.50. They also have a selection of tasty quiches that are priced at £1.80 a slice. Another favourite of mine is a selection of cold salads that are self served. These include lentil salad, potato salad, sweetcorn, beetroot, cole slaw and stuffed vine leaves among others. These are usually too cold but at £2.80 for a large plate, £2.00 for a medium, and £1.80 for a small one it's good value.

The only thing that lets this place down is the coffee. The guys who run this place are very nice but they can't pull a decent espresso to save their lives and they heat their milk way more than is necessary. You're just throwing your money away if you order coffee - it is undrinkable. This is definitely a place for tea.

Opening hours:
9-5 Monday to Friday
10-4 Saturdays