Tower Hamlets: an ongoing, modern soap opera of politics and conflict.
This isn’t a part of the city that I visit often.
I’m not superstitious or racist (were those the right words to choose?), it is simply an area that has yet to be sufficiently populated with friends that I like or restaurants worth seeing (coming off as a real card here, I know). In London, not a day goes by that I’m not assaulted by a sensational headline informing me of a new racially charged crime or outrage that has ‘rocked the Towers’. I know, its not wise to blindly believe everything that you read in the media, but what can I say?
Either subliminally or directly, I’ve been swerving E2 for years now.
Since my time away, the area has received something like a face lift. The blocks themselves are slowly becoming filled with their new, gentrified clientele and there are, of course, restaurants to cater for them.
When Typing Room opened in the place of the hastily closed Viajante, in 2014, there was a general sigh and expectation that a by-the-books critic friendly eaterie would replace it. In some ways those expectations were well made. Lee Westcott, a man who has apparently been furiously attempting to work in every prominent restaurant around the world, since leaving Tom Aikens’ Elystan Street, returned to London in 2014 to create a five course tasting menu for new owner Jason Atherton. Although the restaurant decor remained more or less the same, bar the addition of some fashionable New Scandi furniture, the menu proved to cause quite the stir and for good reason.
Let’s get one thing straight: you need a certain ‘snooty hat’ on to enjoy restaurants like these. It might sound odd for a seasoned food critic, but I’ve never been completely at ease in high-end eating establishments. When you enter a dining room with a menu that essentially demands over a hundred pounds from each and every one of its customers, for the privilege of sitting down and eating a few fancy nibbles, you can always sense a certain level of smugness.
Middle-aged gents rub their contented port-soaked bellies and crisp shirted millennials lazily scan their Instagram feeds whilst quaffing sake. The service is polite and congenial, as expected, but I still hear grumblings from a disgruntled woman in her forties, after she finds a waitress’ skirt ‘sluttish’. Sometimes the clientele of these places is enough to put you off the entire experience. Thankfully, the food is divine.
I’m delighted by the crispy fish skin with cod and oyster. The IPA sourdough, which has been a staple on the menu since the restaurant’s opening night, is as good as I’ve heard tell and I’m pleasantly surprised by with the desert of Sheep’s yoghut (?!) served with the apple and dill.
By the time I’ve finished the five course, amiably paired with wine and sake, I’m almost unaware of the sea of fools that surrounds me…