Summer is almost upon us and the evenings are lighter, we can sit outside, albeit wrapped up in our coats. No more squinting in candle light discussing what we may or may not be eating, we can appreciate venues which are; light and airy, with high ceilings and huge windows. Foodies continue to flock to East London’s industrial spaces, renovated warehouses and converted railway arches filled with street food markets, pop ups or permanent restaurants. I relish google mapping my way to somewhere tucked away off the beaten track looking around at everyone else who is feeling just as smug with their new find.
In 2014 The Manor and The Dairy, two restaurants by Robin Gill, were scooping up foodie accolades all over the place, I had to go. These restaurants have taken a few concepts and created a winning formulae; an affordable tasting menu, home-grown or locally sourced ingredients, interesting cuts of meat and showcasing their chefs technical abilities. Paradise Garage the third venture opened in 2015 under a railway arch in Bethnal Green, their first venture East.
Arriving early evening daylight still cascading in, the railway arch is completely glass fronted and we are seated right by the window. Twisted filament light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, exposed brick work and pieces of corrugated cardboard lining the walls, they have the Williamsburg come East London hipster vibe down to a T. We take a seat with all the other middle class people struggling to afford to live in East London, take a look at the menu while enjoying our amuse bouche.
Pickled rhubarb filled and fresh, with a tangy kick. The tasting menu is what I’m eyeing up (love affordable tasting menus, another great example, Pidgin) but actually in the room I would say 70% of people are eating from the normal menu, which offers smaller plates to start and then larger mains designed to share. In the mood for a good bottle of red we put our order in, and not a moment after we have some sourdough with whisky infused butter, salami made in house and venison pate.
The sourdough is warm, and deliciously sour. Venison pate is very gamey, I love the flavour and it is topped with bursts of sweet raisins. The next course arrives, lamb heart, fennel kimchi and black pepper.
The offal is cooked to perfection like soft smooth pieces of pate, the sauce is incredibly peppery. We move on to the next course, still using the same cutlery, the salt cod brandade, squid ink, olive and shellfish crisp.
This and the next course are a particular highlight, soft fish, salt flavoured with the syrupy ink and the piquant olives, delightful.
Above are the portobello mushrooms, bagna cauda, raw turnip and rye, like the best mushroom risotto but without the rice and just a hint of grain.
The service slows as we head to the main courses, allowing us to enjoy our wine in the dusky half light. We have the skate and seaweed.
Perfectly cooked, soft meaty skate, mild in flavour just the al dent spaghetti-like seaweed. A slight bump in the road as we simultaneously crunch on skate cartilage. If I am told there will be bones in my food that’s ok, but without warning I am prizing them all out of my mouth and glad it is just my mother sitting in front of me.
The main is Welsh lamb, potato gratin and some other vegetables. This course fell a little flat, meat not particularly tender, vegetables are vegetables, the main dish certainly wasn’t the most memorable. In need of a pick me up, we have our palate cleanser, yogurt, peas and tarragon, and my spirits are already lifted.
This is one of the most inventive palate cleansers I have had. The fresh peas have a slight sweetness and soft popping texture, shame about the big chip in my bowl!
Although the list of ingredients is long, over all good flavours that came together well, although I think it helped that the dessert wine was delicious.
Oh and our bonus dessert, buckwheat… If you know what buckwheat tastes like, then what do I need to say, I still don’t. Total bill including tip £149. For the menu, the excellent, inventive and slightly off the wall courses, fantastic. Great value for money something that is becoming a rarity in London, we had a few bumps in the road but we also had a really memorable evening and it is that extraordinary, ‘Je ne ce quoi’ that has lead to the success of all three restaurants.http://www.paradise254.com/