A few weeks ago, I thought it was the cool new thing for a restaurant entrance to be disguised as a sex shop. But tonight’s restaurant must be even cooler because it doesn’t even have an entrance. We’re meeting Didi (my Indian sister) at Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green and after a charming walk from Shoreditch with SauvyB and Salty – we’re decidedly lost. Google maps tells us that the dodgy side street we’ve arrived at, is the right spot. Looking around at the empty car parks and grimy housing commission, no one is convinced, so we ask a local who concurs this is indeed the spot. But where??
We see an open door and the white walls inside look promising. Around a corner and down a white corridor that leads up a white staircase to another white door – could this be it? We push through to a bright and airy expanse, that is the dining room. There’s something a little intimidating about walking into the packed restaurant – like I’m just not part of this cool club who knew it was here all along. It’s been open for 8 years and there’s never been a sign out the front.
Starkly elegant, the concrete walls and ceilings are all painted white. Industrial drop lighting hangs from the ceiling and a very cool looking crowd is spaced evenly along the marble top bar. The only thing contrasting against this sleekness is the dark bentwood chairs, a baby grand piano (I hear they put on some mean cabaret performances here) in the corner and a lady with a new Audrey Tatou ‘do’ . If I’m making it sound very sterile, I don’t mean to… warm, utilitarian, industrial chic I’d call it?!
Didi has brought us here – a fellow foodie – we bonded over hours spent in an underground office during the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 and many a bowl of the best Chana Masala at Bengali Sweets. She’s over here working with Hamish & Andy and invited us to a taping of their ‘Euro Gap Year’ show the night before. Housed in a fabulous disused pub in East London, The Lord Stanley, I do need to include the next picture of the Green Room – full of old antiques and an old bath full of booze.
There’s a snail that crawls past my glass of De Chansac 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (£22) as we check out the menu – seasonal French bistro dishes, but some of it still reads a little British.
To start we share the Crab cake, Jerusalem artichoke, apple and radish (£9.50). The photo probably doesn’t do it justice, but I love the slight char on the outside with sweet crab meat, tart apple sauce and crunchy salad.
Didi can’t go near the Charcuterie (£7.25) plate, which suits the rest of us just fine.
Around the table I do have meat envy with the Longhorn rib of beef and béarnaise (£27.50) that SauvyB has and the Lamb rump, lettuce, bacon and peas (£19) that’s with Salty. But my Cod with samphire, cockles and beurre bosc (£21) is delicious. Flaky cod with a light creamy sauce that’s polka-dotted with caviar and hints of vanilla. And we share a Fennel, tomato, avocado and cucumber (£6.25) salad, a side of chips (£4) and buttered greens (£4).
The best part of the meal was certainly saved for last as dessert turns in to a pass-the-parcel of sorts. This has got to be the best way to enjoy food – take a bite and pass it on. We share the Salted caramel tart with clotted cream (£6); Chocolate and raspberry cake with crème fraiche (£6.50); Orange pana cotta with ginger ice cream (£6) and Apple tart tartin with vanilla ice cream (£6).
The pana cotta is my favourite – silky orange custard and a ginger sorbet that throws my tastebuds into confusion with the cold sorbet and heat from the ginger. Followed by (in order) the chocolate raspberry cake that’s dense like a brownie, salted caramel tart and apple tart tartin.
Bistrotheque – 23-27 Wadeson Street E2 9DR, London – 020 8983 7900