Byron

by the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 7 December 2010)

Byron is a US-style burger diner at the heart of Canary Wharf but tucked away on the second floor of the Cabot Place shopping centre.

There were few passers-by, but among them, as my Thirst Mate and I settled down for lunch, were model Danielle Lloyd and her footballer fiancé Jamie O’Hara along with their four month old baby, Archie.

Byron

Escalators take you straight to the door. But there is no door.

All the waiters in Byron were sporting moustaches in honour of Movember, fundraising for the Prostate Cancer Charity. The diner even offered a special Movember burger with some proceeds going to charity.

My Thirst Mate ordered this along with some fries and I asked for the Byron burger with a side order of macaroni cheese. There is a modest range of attractive burgers, which forms the core of the menu.

A New York drink in a US-style diner

To wash them down, we ordered a strawberry milkshake and a Brooklyn beer, supporting the carefully cultivated American theme.

By the time we finished our burgers and carb-laden side dishes, we realised there was no space for dessert, but would have happily ordered anything from the menu of cheesecake, knickerbocker glory, chocolate brownie and flavoured ice creams.

The service was friendly and the atmosphere relaxed but busy, as we would expect given the location at lunchtime on a weekday.

Our bill came to £31.40, excluding service.

Byron is on the second floor at Cabot Place East in Canary Wharf E14 4QT. Telephone 020 7715 9360.

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Belgique

by the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 14 November)

My Thirst Mate and I were walking along the river by Canary Wharf on a Saturday evening, passing Belgique as hunger struck. Just recently there were builders working inside. It’s a fresh venue for our hungry bellies.

Belgique is a split-level brasserie with an awesome display of cakes and sweets forming the focal point of the ground floor.

The décor is two-tone, orange and dark, with large windows ensuring there is a clear view of the river from most parts of the restaurant.

We sat upstairs and negotiated the menu. The meals are typically continental and there is an abundant range of Belgian beers and other drinks. I ordered a dark beer and my Thirst Mate, a blonde.

Good food, good beer

We studiously avoided the starters, resolving to leave enough space for dessert. My Thirst Mate ordered Coq au Vin along with a side dish of crispy baby potato and I asked for salmon en croute.

We were both highly impressed; my Thirst Mate struggling to remember when she last had such a good meal. They were generously portioned too.

And now the moment we’d been waiting for. While we had the option of choosing our dessert from the menu, we couldn’t resist feasting our eyes on the treats downstairs. I settled quickly on chocolate cheesecake, but my Thirst Mate struggled deeply over a sweet dilemma. She finally settled on chocolate éclair, but she’ll be back before long to try out something else.

Good cakes too

While the main courses were excellent, it is the sweeter dishes which make this a must-visit venue. Perhaps afternoon tea is a more cost-effective way of sampling the experience. Belgique also has a range of enticing breakfast options on the menu.

Our experience was superb, with friendly and helpful service. The evening atmosphere was very relaxed, but the restaurant clearly wants to be seen as a place to go at any time of the day.

Our bill came to £41.50, excluding service.

Belgique is next to the river at 37 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR. Telephone 020 7516 0022.

Camino – Puerto del Canario

by the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 31 October)

We had only been sat down a couple of minutes when my Thirst Mate exclaimed this was probably the funkiest Spanish restaurant she had ever been to. It was a Friday evening, which probably helped the atmosphere, along with the DJ spinning upbeat Latino riffs in the bar area.

The venue is divided in two, with a spacious bar partitioned from the restaurant area. There are two Fußball tables in the entrance area, well used by suited City Boys throughout the evening.

Our service was very friendly; we had the impression the staff enjoyed working there.

I ordered a Spanish beer and my Thirst Mate went for an Applejito, a mocktail with mint leaves and a dash of lime; no prizes for guessing the main fruit juice ingredient! We stayed well clear of The Big Guns wine menu where prices range from £38 per bottle to £640. There are cheaper wines available.

Our waiter topped up our tap water throughout the evening.

It took some time to ponder the tapas menu and eventually we saved a little effort by ordering the Embutidos y Queso platter (cured meats and cheese) along with three vegetable tapas.

As is the way with tapas, the food was laid out in front of us and we shared the dishes between us. We were very happy with all the food and found we’d left just enough space for dessert.

My Thirst Mate was delighted with her crème catalana, a Catalan, custard-based version of crème brûlée. I chose some ice cream (from Jude’s) with almonds and enjoyed it too.

We settled the bill (£54.16 including service) and retired to the bar for another drink. Camino is a great place to go for an evening out, but they also have impressive breakfast (Mon-Fri only) and brunch menus.

Camino is next to Canary Wharf Pier, at 28 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR. Telephone 020 7239 9077.

Aniseed

By the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 12 September 2010)

My Thirst Mate was convalescing at home after a nasty bug, so my Pool Buddy agreed to join me for a curry.

Aniseed is a small Indian restaurant based in a former public house on the north west of the Isle of Dogs. The interior design has a contemporary feel, well-lit and neatly furnished. There are just a few dining tables set apart from a small bar area.

Aniseed

Formerly Rogue Trader, and before that the Blacksmiths Arms

We ordered two large Cobra beers and pondered the extensive menu. While all the typical Indian dishes are catered, we were impressed with a generous choice of unusual dishes or house specialities.

I don’t normally take the trouble to remark on poppadoms, but we were both very impressed. Very thin, crisp and served with delicious accompaniments.

I started with reshmi roll: small chunks of marinated lamb wrapped in chappati. It was rich in flavour, innovative and delicious. My Pool Buddy chose the Aniseed spicy chicken which was thin strips of chicken in a pepper sauce, almost as sweet as it was spicy.

For our main course, we shared special fried rice, a seeded naan and saag aloo (spinach and potatoes). My Pool Buddy ordered a faultless king prawn jalfrezi and I chose chicken rangani. This is cooked in honey, ginger and a rich spicy sauce.

All our food was excellent.

Aniseed

Aniseed is a "Bar & Indian cuisine"

The service was friendly and generally helpful, with our waiter eager to check we were happy with our food. Later my tongue was tormented after I crunched into a chilli pepper. I asked for a glass of water, but it didn’t arrive and the bill was also slow to come.

However, our meal was delicious and we enjoyed our time at Aniseed. There were a few other diners there and the small bar area grew quite busy as the evening progressed. This just added to the atmosphere and our overall experience.

Our bill came to £48.40 excluding service.

Aniseed is about five minutes walk from Heron Quays DLR, at 25 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, E14 8JH. Telephone 020 7517 9233.