Friday, 15 February 2013

Wapping Project: A Front Runner

There is not much to tempt people to Wapping. Yes you might fancy a stroll along the Thames. I suppose you might even be lucky enough to own one of the converted warehouses that are dotted along the bank, a studio in Gunmakers' Wharf, a pad in Tobacco Wharf - a throw back to when the East End was a hub of international trade. That apart though, there is really not much there. Well at least that's what I thought.

On a random Friday off work the Fashionista suggested we visited the Wapping Project. An art installation in a former hydraulic power station, with a restaurant. I thought it was worth a shot.

The building is incredible, the generators are still in situ, post industrial chic. Of course with any place like this, there are hints at pretension - in amongst those incredible feats of Victorian engineering were TVs showing cars driving through tunnels on loop. Nevertheless, I loved the vibe - perhaps I have been living in East London too long.

We were meant to be having a cheap lunch. Sadly the Wapping Project is not that. Starters hover around the nine quid mark, mains come closer to twenty. Although tempted by the tandoori octopus, we opted for the veal tartare - this came cupped in radicchio leaves. There were the usual capers, more interesting, however, was the introduction of pickled mustard seeds. They worked alongside the mild veal. We had started well.

Next up I had the cod, almond sauce, lemon confit, radicchio and anchovy sauce. It was achingly beautiful, a plate of petals dissected with a clean line of pure white cod. Stunning. And boy did the flavours live up to expectations. Soft cod, bitter radicchio. The almond sauce was a real treat, almost like an almond hummus.  Brought together perfectly with the salty anchovies. Seriously good stuff.

The Fashionista had the potato and Ardrahan knish with watercress salad. I had never come across knish before - a Jewish pastry parcel snack - and maybe this just wasn't a great version of it. The Ardrahan was hardly present - in effect it was mashed potato wrapped in pastry, not something I will be searching out anytime again soon.

I loved the venue, veal and cod.  If we had had only that I would have left the Wapping Project, got straight on the blower, and gathered a group to come and celebrate a new favourite. But that knish - a carb on carb fight - left me with doubts. Still, maybe Wapping does now have something to tempt people to visit, other than the glorious views of Canary Wharf.

Wapping Project on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Meat Mission: Meat Liquor, but fun

I have been following the MEAT franchise since the days of New Cross Gate. Many an hour I have whiled away standing on the streets of South East London, then later in behind Oxford Street. And yet, while I used to be a devout follower (it is incredible how the Meat brand attracts an almost religious fervour), I was left feeling empty by my last trip to Meat Liquor. The music was too loud - when Metallica invades your personal space to such an extent that you feel you are sitting inside one of Lars Ulrich's bass drums, something is wrong. The service brusque. And worst of all, the food was a major let down. Overcooked burgers and a terrible Philly cheese steak roll. This was not the #MeatEasy I had fallen for.

So, when they opened their next venture, Meat Market, I let it pass me by. But then came a third, Meat Mission, and the feeling returned. I remembered the good times, and I decided it was worth one final shot.

Once a great place for a beer, but barren for food, the restaurant scene in Shoreditch has had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years.  First came the big boys (Busaba Eatthai, Byron), then more recently Brindisa opened its latest outpost, Tramontana.  Now the MEAT guys have moved on.

Set off the main drag, MEAT Mission is a cavernous place - only half of it was open on the evening we were there. And, ironically enough, you can book. No more queuing for me. The atmosphere is everything MEAT Liquor is not - friendly, welcoming, egalitarian. I felt comfortable once again.

The menu is similar to the other outposts - I went for the Dead Hippie, the original MEAT burger combo. Rare, sloppy, delicious - this was a return to form.  Back up there with the Lucky Chips of this world - a proper dirty burger. The Fashionista had the cheeseburger which was equally good.

Alongside the burgers, we got some of their Monkey Fingers - battered chicken with a hot pepper sauce and blue cheese dip. These have been getting rave reviews - but I was left nonplussed. They reminded me of the kind of soggy sweet and sour chicken people seemed happy to devour growing up in Scotland in the 90s.  That said, the blue cheese dip was some finger lickin' stuff.

MEAT Mission has restored my belief in what the MEAT guys are doing. Proper dirty burgers up there with the best of them. But I think I will stick East to get my MEAT fix, maybe I am getting old, but MEAT Mission is just so much nicer. MEAT Liquor feels like a teenager trying to be something, MEAT Mission has got through the angst and knows what life's about.

MEATmission on Urbanspoon
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Morphy Richards