By the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 16th March)
The Milestone is a trendy gastro-bar a stone’s throw to the right out of Mile End station. It’s clean and comfortable, with a row of hookah pipes on the side. I’ve been in a few times for a drink and it’s been surprisingly quiet so close to such a busy station. I always wondered why, but the landlord expressed such great enthusiasm for his chef’s food that I felt compelled to try it.
I popped in with my Thirst Mate on a Thursday evening and we had our choice of tables. The only other customers were a group of students who – despite knocking back mostly soft drinks – gradually became more raucous as the evening wore on. Another couple arrived later for a meal and then a trio of young men propped up the bar.
The Milestone specialises in “traditional Indian dishes cooked in a modern way”. All the favourites are on the menu though naan bread is conspicuous by its absence (chapatti and parantha take its place). There are a few surprises too; fish and chips among them. The Thirst Mate went for lentil soup followed by chicken bhuna and steamed rice. I chose lamb samosas then chicken dhansak with pilau rice.
The meals arrived within the promised fifteen minutes. It was plentiful and delicious, though the lentil soup was more like stew. We told the barman how much we enjoyed it, but he retorted with an apology: the regular chef was off and his cooking must be tasted to be believed. The service was a little scatty but well-intentioned: the starters and mains arrived at the same time, we had to request cutlery and our drinks arrived after some delay. On the plus side, the manager took an interest in us and was chatty but unobtrusive.
The Milestone has potential. The food and atmosphere were good, but it was still fairly empty. In mitigation, previous incarnations of the establishment were hideous and the new look is hidden out of sight of the nearby tube station. There are no disabled toilet facilities. Our bill came to £31.60 including a beer each.
The Milestone is at 588 Mile End Road, E3 4PH. Telephone 020 8981 4100.