Tag Archives: Shoreditch

On Location: Waterhouse (Shoreditch, London)

A few weeks ago, after a tough spell almost chained to my desk, I was really quite relieved to have been released for the weekend and to be going for dinner on Friday. Blinking as I walked out, the sun on my face, I will freely admit there was a real sense of freedom.

And a few short hours later, via an Aperol spritz on a terrace, I found myself sitting next to a canal and with bikes whizzing past on the other side of the water, with the vague feeling that I was somewhere in Holland. It is this stretch of canal that gives its name to the restaurant – Waterhouse in Shoreditch. This place also prides itself on an eco-friendly ethos, seasonal ingredients and giving local people opportunities in the restaurant trade.

I got to know about this place a few years ago through friends who worked with the trustees, and it’s the sort of place that might be difficult to find unless you know exactly where it is. It’s in an unassuming building, tucked down a quiet side street just off Kingsland Road and could be incredibly easy to overlook. You need to keep your eyes peeled for the water droplet symbol.

While the restaurant has glass windows and canal views from one side, the kitchen is brightly lit at the back. I’m a bit of a fan of places where you can see the kitchen staff cooking away in the background. I don’t mean that I need to have things sliced-and-diced in front of my face, but scenes of business being done on the other side of the room provide an assurance than things are being cooked from scratch.

My starter was chilli paneer on lemonade bread with raita. I have no idea what makes this lemonade bread – it seemed to be something like a small, puffy pita. Maybe some lemonade in the dough? I didn’t know, and a post-dinner check via Google didn’t illuminate me much. If anyone out there can enlighten me, then please do!

This confusion about ingredients aside, this was a delicious starter, possibly one of the best that I have had for quite a while. First off, there was a really generous amount of paneer, which I love. This was all coated in a sweet, spicy, fruity, sticky sauce with a goodly amount of chilli too. It was rich and lightly fiery but avoided being too hot.

My main was that veggie staple, the mushroom ravioli. However, I don’t think that really gives a true flavour (ha ha!) of this dish, for the secret was in the sauce. I spied that this was served with wild garlic. I’ve been rather frantically busy recently, and have not come across any of this stuff, either in markets (having not been to any) or in the forests around London (again, due to a lack to time to go walking, and little inclination due to the recent cold/wet/damp snap).

I had in my mind that this would be a pasta dish served with some sort of wild garlic pesto. When it came, it was a buttery sauce with wild garlic added to impart flavour, so it was delicate rather than vampire-repelling strong. For the sake of my fellow diners, probably a good thing, but a little ramekin of wild garlic puree to add to the ravioli would not have gone amiss.

I really liked this. The filling had a rich, earthy mushroom flavour, and a bit of texture – finely chopped fungi rather than the more familiar paste that you so often get. The sauce was buttery and had an agreeable mild garlic flavour. All in all, very tasty, even if it wasn’t the plate of bright emerald green I was expecting.

So…would I go back? Yes. I go here from time to time anyway, and I like the variety of the menu – the dishes, in particular the veggie dishes, tend to be somewhat different to the usual suspects (I have yet to experience risotto here) and for that, we all need to be grateful. It’s also got a certain charm from being stylish but also somewhat secret, another rare treat in this town. The staff are also fantastic – fun, friendly and unpretentious. In Shoreditch – who’d believe it?

Waterhouse, 10 Orsman Road, London N1 5QJ. Tel: 020 7033 0123. Tube: Haggerston.

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On Location: Fika (Shoreditch, London)

Fika means a Swedish coffee break, usually involving a little snack. I know this, because I used to live there. I loved living in Stockholm – lovely coffee bars, and great cakes and snacks. When looking for a place to meet my friend K a couple of days ago, I discovered Fika, a Swedish café/bar/grill with a roof terrace on Brick Lane. While we didn’t make it there in the end, I decided that I really did have to go. Yesterday, I did just that.

Book in hand and with a vague appointment to meet a friend there if she was able to come, I jumped on the tube and headed over to Fika. How would it be? Could I look forward to tucking into a range of Nordic goodies? On the way over, I had ideas kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and dillpotatis (potato salad with dill) in my mind.

Fika has a pretty slick website, with a philosophy based around simple, fresh food. So far, so good. I turned up, and the place looked promising. The owners have gone for the pared-down Scandinavian shabby-chic minimalist look, with a few ironic twists (reindeer skulls decked out with pearls, astroturf cut into the shape of a reindeer). I checked my watch – it was 3.30pm, so time for coffee and a much-anticipated cinnamon bun.

Except…they didn’t have any cinnamon buns.

I was almost ready to turn around and walk out. What is the point in a Swedish cafe without cinnamon buns? I ordered my coffee and settled for what was euphemistically called a summer berry tart (in May – why?). This might have been alright if it had been cooked properly, but the middle was borderline raw and unpleasantly doughy. It had been heated slightly, I suspect in part to hide the fact it probably wasn’t quite cooked. This cake was not difficult or elaborate, so it pretty bad to flunk on something so simple. This place would last about five minutes on the streets of Södermalm in its current form.

Would I go back? No. Perhaps the mains and savoury dishes are better, perhaps it’s the coolest place on Earth when it gets busy, but frankly, I don’t really care. It’s cute enough as a place for a drink, but from what I had, there are other places on Brick Lane serving great coffee and (in my view) better food, so it’s not as if you need to settle.

Fika, 161a Brick Lane, London E1 6SB. Tel: 020 7613 2013. Tube: Shoreditch High Street.

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