Mono London

By the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 1 May 2011)

It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon and my Thirst Mate and I were out for an early lunch. I’m sure the weather explains it, but Mono London was already packed at 12.15.

There were a few tables exposed to the sunshine at the front, on the north side of Roman Road. There is also a small basement area in addition to the tables gathered around the food counter.

Mono London serves a range of sandwiches, soups and cakes along with drinks including coffee, tea, milkshakes and fruit smoothies.

My Thirst Mate ordered a strawberry frappe milkshake and I had a mango and orange smoothie. Both drinks were perhaps a little thinner than a typical milkshake or smoothie, but they were fresh, delicious and just what we were looking for.

We both ordered sandwich baguettes for lunch. My Thirst Mate’s was chicken, bacon and sweetcorn. Like mine, it was presented in a basket and seemed to go down well. I ordered a meatball and cheese baguette which the server offered to heat for me. This too went down well. The meatballs were covered with an Italian tomato sauce, into which the cheese had started to melt. It was just what I wanted to accompany my healthy smoothie.

We had just enough time after lunch to treat ourselves to a chocolate brownie, for me, and a Danish pastry for my Thirst Mate.

Mono London is clean and bright, with a striking black/red/silver décor. The service was friendly and welcoming, which also helps to explain why it was so busy on the afternoon of our visit. Our lunch bill came to £14.70, but it’s certainly possible to put away a decent lunch here, including a drink, for less than a fiver.

Mono London is just off the number 8 bus route at 535 Roman Road, E3.

La Forchetta

(by the Munching Mariner, published East End Life, 13 February 2011)

My Thirst Mate and I wanted a treat. So we set off for some Italian comfort food at La Forchetta. It was 7.30 when we arrived and there were four tables already occupied. On a Sunday evening, we read this as a good omen.

La Forchetta is a large restaurant, stretching way back from the modest frontage. The décor is dated, but uncannily authentic. A wooden boat in Italian colours, suspended from the ceiling, seems simply to ‘belong’.

La Forchetta

Authentic Italian food in Bethnal Green

We were given a choice of tables among the other diners near the bar. A dish of complementary olives was brought to our table, along with the menus. On offer was a veritable multitude of dishes: pizzas, pastas and a range of mains. I was overwhelmed.

We ordered drinks: tap water for us both, lemonade for my Thirst Mate and a palatable house red for me. Then we settled down to choose our food.

My Thirst Mate ordered some crostone, similar to bruschetta but topped with anchovies, tomato and rocket. My bresaola came with sliced parmesan cheese, plenty of meat and a mountain of rocket so impressive I doubted my capacity to eat it. Both dishes were beautifully presented. And I eventually managed to devour the rocket.

For our main course, my Thirst Mate chose a chicken and asparagus risotto. It was generously portioned and she was pleased with the aparagus, cooked to perfection.

I opted for the saltimbocca alla romano. This was essentially veal wrapped in parma ham and accompanied with winter vegetables and new potatoes. My only complaint was that the vegetables seemed a little overcooked, but the rest was excellent.

Restaurant & Pizzeria

Plenty aside from pizza on the menu

We ordered a single tiramisu with two spoons and enjoyed it thoroughly. Like the rest of our food, it was generously served, so at this stage we were more than happy to share!

The Italian waitresses were friendly and helpful and as the restaurant packed out we noted Italian voices from three neighbouring tables. Such an endorsement was no surprise to us as we enjoyed our meal so much.

Our bill came to £46, including service. Lunch deals are available for as little as £6.90 per person.

La Forchetta is two minutes away from the tube station at 464 Bethnal Green Road E2 0EA. Telephone 020 7739 9467.

Fat Cat

By the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 14th December)

Fat Cat is a cafe-style gastropub in Bow Wharf, just south of Victoria Park.

My brother and I arrived after 3pm on a Saturday for a very late lunch. We were pleased to learn they were still serving food and they had a high-chair available for my brother’s baby boy.

Fat Cat

This venue is part of a national chain, but it’s the only one in London. It has the unusual distinction of feeling both spacious and cosy at the same time. The dark tones, warm lighting and comfortable chairs help create this effect.

The floor is split into two. There is a bar area and a slightly raised restaurant section where we claimed our table of choice. We ordered pints of Guinness and Strongbow and assessed the menu. There is a wide range of sandwiches and typical pub meals.

Burgers would appear to be their speciality, so we opted for a bacon and cheese burger and the Italian burger (with mozzarella, pesto and rocket). They arrived in about ten minutes, laden with their toppings and accompanied by large chips and coleslaw.

The meals went down well with us both. The burgers were thick and rich of taste. They both came medium/well done. We weren’t offered an option on this, but nor had we asked. The chips were as hearty and wholesome as chips can be. We had also ordered a pot of peppercorn sauce which proved a great accompaniment.

The service was friendly and appropriate. Our waiter didn’t trouble us unnecessarily but was quick to catch our eye when we needed him.

Fat Cat has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere; perfect for whiling away a cold afternoon. I’ve been before for brunch, another experience I’d recommend. There are several long-standing offers. Ladies should visit on Thursday evenings for a good deal and students enjoy a 20% drinks discount at all times.

Our bill came to £28.25 excluding service.

Fat Cat is a 10-15 minute walk from Mile End or Bethnal Green stations. It’s served by a number of bus routes and there is also a free car park.

Fat Cat is at Bow Wharf, Grove Road E3 5SN. Telephone: 8983 4353.