Stable Pizza, 16-18 Whitechapel Road, E1 1EW
On a rather murky Monday night, Stable Pizza glows like a beacon, thanks to rather gorgeous lighting and interiors, practically making me want to bang on the doors shouting “Sanctuary”.
No need, they’re open and we’re given a warm welcome. It’s cavernous and cleverly designed with an open area at the front, leading to a more restaurant like area at the back. We are already hopeful as to what’s to come, and we hunker down over our menus.
Unusually abstemious we forego alcohol on this school night (a shame really as Stable Pizza famous for their large array of ciders on offer, including a ‘flight’ of three different ciders).
And so to the food. The Silver Fox rather wisely orders the Aldgate Angler, and is presented with one of the best pizzas we’ve had outside of Italy. The toppings are munificent in stature and a flavour combination of smoked mackerel and smoked salmon leaves our tastebuds tingling for more.
My pie of spiced butternut squash, goat’s cheese and spinach is warming and filling, only improved by a generous portion of plum chutney which contrasts the creaminess of the squash and cheese. Served alongside a decent portion of enormous potato wedges, I am quickly sated.
I coquettishly turned down pudding but The Silver Fox ploughed into a ginormous hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles, drops AND sauce, with a quivering pile of crumble covering the whipped cream. He looked like a schoolboy on hearing the tuck shop shutters opening. The whole incident took decades off him.
This place is a bit of a gift for Whitechapel and we’ll definitely be back. It’s a good venue for larger parties too because of the sheer space.
Service was charm personified throughout and the bill proved excellent value for money, making a weeknight supper out for two accessible for around £30 all in.
Pavilion Cafe, Victoria Park
And so it’s the end of an era and with tears in my eyes I sip my last latte and lounge over lunch. What better place to say au revoir than the Pavilion Cafe, in the heart of my favourite place in the world: Victoria Park.
Whether I’m cycling to London Fields or walking Maggie the whippet, the Pavilion cafe is the beacon of calm I come back to, overlooking the majestic lake.
My tastebuds are kicked off with fresh cranberry juice and a latte that is sumptuous in texture and taste. They even sell their gorgeous breads and coffee beans so you can carry on quality-gorging at home.
My Sri Lanken breakfast is a warming treat on a temperamental day, involving a soothing lentil daal, a consommé-clear egg curry, shredded cooked beetroot (which add wonderful colour to the already enticing palette) and coconut chilli sambal (a hot sauce that traditionally would be more liquids than my version), all atop a bed of string hoppers (thin rice noodles). All beautifully presented in individual dishes so you play like children with different flavour quotients.
For the slightly more traditionalist the staff kindly turned their BLT into a vegetarian version by replacing bacon with large slabs of perfectly grilled halloumi. I had one of those rushes as I looked out onto the peaceful Victorian vista, (albeit next to the Silver Fox noisily slurping down the dregs of a fresh pink grapefruit juice), thinking this would be one of those images that flashes before my eyes on my death bed.
Philosophy disappears when I eye the pastry section, and never completely sated, I bite into a chocolate-dense brownie which met perfection when my tastebuds hit a sour cherry to counterpoint the dark sweetness of my favourite treat. I’m not sure if it’s due to growing up in the eighties where one couldn’t get through a dinner party without someone wheeling in a Black Forest gateau, but I’ve never been able to beat the sweet-and-sour combo of a cherry / chocolate combo.
Two ate a leisurely lunch in bliss, washed down with perfect coffees, zinging fresh juices and devilish desserts for just over £30 all in.
I can’t think of a better way to bow out. Thank you readers for your patience as I’ve swooned over suppers and lamented over lunches. All East End Life reviews can be found at www.legordonblue.wordpress.com
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Forman and Sons, Stour Road, Fish Island, E3 2NT
It’s hard to miss this slab of salmon pink architecture when you see it, but it’s a question of seek and ye shall find rather than attracting passing trade through its doors.
The mothership has once again heaved into view in East London and I thought this might be the perfect spot for Sunday lunch. Manager Inda is the pinnacle of pleasant as he shows us round the viewing gallery above the smokery. A civilised start to our Sunday lunch and fascinating to boot. This famous smokery processes three tonnes of salmon a day and we watch on with a meditative fascination as we see salmon pin-boned by hand with a craft and experience that demands respect and makes us evaluate our plates with newfound awe.
My starter of warm potato blini, rosetted with smoked salmon and dotted with capers and diced shallots is a joy to behold. Mother’s starter of seared tuna and salmon sashimi-style was so pretty I felt compelled to take a photo (usually something I’m snobbish about). Heralded as one of her favourite starters of all time, we’re off to a fine start. The Silver Fox’s trio of salmon (beetroot cured, smoked and wild) is also stunning in both composition and flavours.
In a moment of confusion mother asks what’s the difference between ‘lean’ and ‘fatty’ and we both look at each other’s bodies. Awkward.
Mains are equally delightful. The silver fox’s herb encrusted salmon is a great hunk of fish, the size of which has never seen before by any of us gourmands. I am jealous as my fish cake whilst delicious, is on the small side.
Mother, who, without irony, was talking about two delicate starters rather than a starter and a main, actually plumped for Belly of Pork (not famous for being a light alternative) with a generous portion of crackling (again not part of Slimming World’s regime).
We were all too full for puddings but we had a rather marvellous time: unalloyed quality in an interesting setting with unparalleled views of the Olympic Park.
Three ate handsomely, two courses each for just under £75. Not bad, and on the day we went we accepted an offer of a free bottle of quality rose. What more could one possibly want from a Sunday lunch apart from an after-show nap?
The Pizza Room, 6a Grove Road, E3 5AX
I reviewed the Coffee Room some time ago and heaped praise on the arrival of excellence in service and food in an area that’s a little down at heel.
Things move at quite a lick in this city and since then, not only has an outlet of my favourite gift and stationery shop opened a few doors down (Snap! Run by the glorious Helen), but The Pizza Room has opened, owned by the same establishment as the aforementioned Coffee Room.
You can imagine how hopeful I was of more of the same, which is a little scary as expectations are already high and I didn’t want to jinx it. I was hyper vigilant as I walked in but all was in place: pale grey decor and recycled woods, homely trinkets and the ubiquitous filament lighbulbs? Check, check and check.
I don’t know what their recruitment and customer service training is but the sooner we can roll it out nationwide to every call centre, the better. ‘Charm personified’ was the Silver Fox’s headline on it. I concur. That warm-hearted feeling you can’t quite put your finger on but they all have it in buckets.
And so to the food. Our starters of tomato and onion salad and bruschetta were well seasoned, dressed (in the case of the salad) and flavourful. My bruschetta not only avoided the school boy error of fridge-cold tomatoes but they were actually warm! This upped the flavour levels and was one of my favourite versions of my desert-island starter.
I’m resisting writing an Ode to Pizza here but they were everything you would expect of excellence in pizza: flame-licked base, incorporating crispness yet with a doughy heft. Toppings erred on the side of generous and my calzone version was a show-stopper, causing another restaurant goer to lean in and comment.
Puddings were on offer (chocolate brownie or tiramisu) but at this point the Italian translation of the latter as ‘Pick-Me-up’ was redundant. One more carb, even in the shape of a Savoiardi sponge finger, on the contrary has me thinking ‘Lay-Me-Down’.
In terms of value, you wouldn’t want the price-points to be any higher, and the focus here is on quality rather than cost, but two ate large pizzas, twinned with a fruity white, accompanied by starters, for just over £50 including service. No complaints here and I’m sure we’ll be back.
The Morgan Arms, 42 Morgan Street, E3 5AA
There’s nothing more luxurious than a leisurely lunch on a weekday. The newly-found Spring sun dapples the interior of this characterful pub and we are soon seated and ready for food.
Muted paintwork and bare wood provide a relaxed feel in the bar area, whilst the dining room setting is sharpened by stained-glass windows and linen and glassware pristinely laying the tables.
This is a nice little neighbourhood boozer that prides itself on a warm welcome alongside and well-thought through food menu that transitions through from lunch to dinner with sophistication
The Silver Fox who knows no bounds, swiftly orders a pint of cider whilst I demurely stick to a ginger ale. There’s a bit of a wait for our mains but it’s worth it. the Fox’s fish pie is piping hot and filled to the brim with salmon, prawns and white fish. The sauce is well-seasoned and flavourful without knocking out the more delicate flavours of fish. This comes with a side of your choice so isn’t bad value at £14.
My fish and chips was again generous in portion and came with minted peas and tartare sauce that if not homemade, did a very good impression of it. Chips were fried to perfection and would leave even the greediest of people sated (in fact, cut to evening neither the Silver Fox or I could muster up an appetite, which is unheard of).
For pudding we shared a decent treacle tart with mascarpone: light in pastry but dense in sweetness, this was a real street and gave us the Filipino to get home before an afternoon nap became compulsory.
Service was friendly and the owner talked us through the rotating art display they have on the walls.
Two ate like kings for a little over £40 in total, including service and coffee. Not bad at all and we’ll definitely be back to try their legendary Sunday Roasts.
Bacaro, 387 Roman Road, E3 5QR
We walk into what strongly resembles a glamorous Neighbourhood Watch meeting in this new local Italian: neighbours and friends are beatific in the warm lighting, cheered with wine and dizzied by the very decor.
My eyes dart in excitement: top-drawer glassware, cutlery with the heft of quality, easy-on-the-eye staff, the Silver Fox steadies my elbow as he clocks how visibly moved I am. At the siren of a cocktail shaker I explain with no sense of exaggeration that this could be life-changing.
Fortuna continues to lend her deft touch to the evening and sits us at a table for four, whilst friends of ours urgently looking for a table, walk in. It is meant to be and we sit in in a quorum quartet and await our communion . I have spent the week vertiginously eyeing up the menu and cannot wait to get started.
We enhance our already excellent wine with Parmesan baskets and anchovies twinned with artichokes. My bouche is thoroughly amused – the startling saltiness of the anchovies counterpoint the creamy artichokes with charm. Ditto the punchy Parmesan enveloped in a unctuous sauce.
Antipasti of tiger prawns leave us panting like Pavlovian dogs for what’s to come. Beetroot and goat’s cheese raviolini declares earthiness umami and my seafood stew is borderline genius in its orchestration of flavours. Sublime, with notes of saffron and rouille adding depth.
Perfection cannot be faced without flaws and our nectarines at the dessert stage were at risk of denting rather than al dente, but this is their opening week and they are finding their feet, I believe probably rather overwhelmed with the demand*
Four of us ate three courses plus appetisers for just over £35 a head including copious wine. The Holy Trinity of ambience, quality and value, a sprint from home, is too much for my psyche to bear and could easily become my new East London habit.
I refuse to let this glorious night end and the quartet continue ripping up the carpet at home, polishing off the night with the Silver Fox’s LP collection and limoncello for digestifs.
*bearing in mind this is a Sicilian restaurant please spare me the horse’s head in my bed.
Vinarius, 536 Roman Road, E3 5ES
This East End gem is smuggled away in the thoroughfare of Roman Road market. Blink and you’ll miss it. The contrast is stark as soon as you step through the smart double doors and we’re transported into a quiet oasis that conjures up a respectful hush for the catalogue of quality wines held within.
The food menu is designed to give the wine first billing, whilst keeping the theme of quality throughout. Our bruschetta was generous in portion, and deliciously pungent with garlic and an excellent olive oil.
Veggie burger was a mixture of roasted vegetables and an earthy goat’s cheese in a warmed brioche bun. Small but a joy at the end of a long day, and everything proving good value for money with little breaking the fiver barrier, thus allowing the focus on wine to commence in earnest.
An extraordinary deal means that you can choose any bottle from the wine shop and just pay £5 corkage to enjoy it with your meal, affording the privilege of choosing wines you’d never normally go for in a restaurant because of the markup.
We plumped for a sumptuous and decadent Borgomastro Lunarossa, a velvety smooth red with a touch of smoke and oak. It notched our evening up a level and we’ll remember it for some time to come.
The decor is simple but calming amidst the stresses of London, matching the authority of the staff. The set-up is that of a traditional Italian Enoteca, and I already feel lucky to have somewhere of this calibre on my doorstep.
Service from Eugenio and Jack is charm personified, sharing a wealth of knowledge and delivering the wine with its own stories of provenance. We are offered to try a few other wines before we decide, which feels munificent and their élan is contagious.
Two ate simply and drank gloriously for just over £40 in total. Breakfast and lunch menus are available too and they also rustle up some excellent coffee alongside take home loaves and ambient goods.
The specialism is in Italian wines but has more recently branched out into other countries to ensure they cater for all palettes. This is a must for any East London eonophile.
There are regular wine tastings and supper clubs too, and the kitchen will soon be extended to serve substantial feasts. Check their website http://www.vinarius.london for more info.