Barge East doesn’t quite follow the predictable rhythms of modern dining, and that’s a good thing.
For anyone who’s ever been conned into dropping serious moolah at some of London's theme-park restaurants, you would be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the idea of dining on an old converted Dutch barge. It’s enough to make you think twice - but, as it turns out, you would have been right the first time.
Permanently moored in Hackney Wick and with a view of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Barge East boasts a generously-sized heated outdoor area serving street food at weekends but it is inside the barge itself where the serious food action is taking place. Although the space is rugged it’s also intimate and charming. A 4-course set menu dinner will set you back £39.00, which I’m sure we can all agree is very reasonably priced.
Let’s start, shall we? The mushroom spiced broth starter is an unlikely showstopper, yet here I am singing its praises. Earthy, elegant and powerful.
More good news: The main meats of the menu, venison and duck, both invite you to burrow into winter’s solaces and they jolt your tastebuds into a state of joie de vivre.
On to my favourite part of the meal which also happens to be my three favourite words: Sticky. Toffee. Pudding. Oh, the aromatic bliss, an ode to various shades of beige in contrasting degrees of textures - soft sponge, liquid caramel and ice cream.
What could possible beat that I hear you ask? An apple terrine with spiced white chocolate diplomat, oats and blackcurrant sage. If this dessert was a person wandering the streets of London, it would be chased by swarms of paparazzi and anxious fans wanting a photo - a real stunner. Jammy consistency, syrupy with just the right balance of sweetness, tartness, lightness and thickness.
A note on sustainability before I bow out. The word sustainability carries a lot of weight, yet you see it flung about as a marketing tool on many websites as it’s deemed ‘the right thing to do’. Barge East lives and breathes the word. They make as much as possible in-house (we tried their home-made limoncello as a post dinner treat) which not only helps contribute towards their low waste policy but also ensures that we, as customers, receive the freshest possible ingredients. They also stock really interesting spirits, none of the big names you might be familiar with – we tried Discarded, a dark mahogany rum made from banana peel which truly sends you all the way to a Caribbean Island with its sugary and sunny flavour.
Restaurants like Barge East make you feel warm and cosseted - it’s a large part of their allure. This is evident in the service too, which I found buoyant and refreshingly genuine. In short, make a reservation.
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Chatting Food Contributor: Erica Pilavaki
Growing up with the aroma of meat grilling over open coals, views of vine wrapped mountains and surrounded by the abundant seas of Cyprus, Erica has food and drink in her heart and soul. Contact Erica about London restaurant recommendations and the latest products in food and drink.
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