The legacy of the London Olympics has brought a host of quirky retailerstoStratford.Amixtureofrestaurantshasopenedin Canalside at Here East, serving up everything from wild nettles to imported Italian cheese.
The row of eateries front on to the River Lee Navigation and are part of the complex created in the former Media Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which will become home to tech innovators and educators . So far five units have been let and opened and a bicycle repair shop, juicing bar and cocktail bar are all due to be added to the line-up soon.
We went down there to find out more about the offerings.
1) Mason and Company
It boasts a rarity in the shape of its general manager Sienna O’Rourke – one of a minority of women involved in London’s craft beer industry.
However, they are not as rare a breed as in her native Brisbane where she helped set up the city’s first ever craft beer bar Archive.
She said: “It is very much a boys’ industry over there. Here I’d say the split is about 20% women, 80% men and I am more respected, although customers are often surprised to find a women managing the venue.”
Sienna moved to England in 2011 and began working for Hackney’s The Five Points Brewing Company at its venues in Shoreditch.
When owner Edward Mason decided to team up with street food vendor Capish at Here East he asked Sienna to head up the venture.
In the UK the split is about 20% women, 80% men and I am more respected
Inside there’s copious pale wood panelling, succulents on the tables and a neon sign.
“We wanted to create a space that wasn’t too masculine,” said Sienna. “Craft beer bars are often very industrial and a bit grimy and the focus is on the beer and the food is secondary. We wanted somewhere light and comfortable where families feel welcome.”
It offers bottled, canned and draught beer from Five Points as well as craft beer from across the globe.
Capish serves up food such as polpette (pork and beef meatballs) and fried chicken sandwiches, designed to complement the booze.
You will often find owner Shane Harrison wandering
around the Olympic Park and Hackney Marshes with dog Edna foraging for fresh ingredients such as fruit, mushrooms and borage.
The native New Zealander serves up dishes such as venison withraspberries and nettles and wood pigeon with watercress.
“It’s all about what is in season but also what people don’t know or haven’t tried.
“Most have heard of nettle tea but they don’t know you can eat it too. Hops also used to be eaten a lot in this country before they were used for beer.”
Kentish oysters are also on the menu at £1 a pop but he is keen to overturn a long-standing convention.
He said: “Swallowing them whole is a myth. All the enjoyment is in the chewing.”
He buys his meat from a Berkshire company that shoots wild animals and he butchers it all himself.
The 48-year-old lives nearby in Chatsworth Road, Hackney, which is where he opened his first restaurant almost five years ago. A former navy cook, he said foraging was a normal part of life in Whangarei in northern New Zealand where he grew up.
When he moved around the globe to be with his Irish wife, he tried his hand at sales for sports equipment and recruitment before taking the plunge into the food industry.
“The biggest challenge is staff,”said the fresh food lover. “There is a massive shortage in chefs and waiting staff, which I think is because we have had a boom in the restaurant trade.”
All of the chefs at Gotto, a traditional trattoria-style restaurant, are Italian and on the menu you will find dishes from the Apulia region of Italy.
It is the second venture for the duo behind Soho’s Pere e Mele and serves up two home-made vermouths made at its sister restaurant.
The food menu changes daily but you will find dishes such as fried octopus, roasted beetroot salad, whole sea bream with capers and thyme and goats milk ice cream with black- berries and 25-year Balsamic vinegar.
General manager Alex Langdon said: “The food is based on typical ingredients from the Apulia region – such as the Burrata cheese – but with a bit of British as well. All the pasta is handmade here and the idea is for people to share dishes.”
4) Randy’s Wing Bar
Former Canary Wharf estate agent Andy Watts teamed up
with friend Richard Thacker to start their street food business in 2013.
This is the first restaurant for the duo who met 12 years ago in a bus on the way back from dance festival Global Gathering.
Andy said: “Rich comes from a family of chicken farmers and his dad always said he should get into selling wings as they often just get thrown away. The first time he cooked some for me was amazing, like nothing I had ever tasted, and I knew there was nothing like it in London at the time.”
They travelled to America, where wings are a multi-billion-dollar industry, to learn from chefs how to prepare the tastiest varieties.
The fried wings come in varieties such as Bombay, marinated overnight then grilled on a robata and fried, a Hanoi beer battered offering with a fish sauce, a Nacho wing served with taco seasoning, cheese and other trimmings and a maple baked blueberry brunch wing.
“It’s a very scary thing opening a restaurant in London as it is such a cut throat industry,” said Andy.
“And we are the new kids on the block here. People expected us to be a big diner but I think that has gone out of fashion.
“We wanted to create a bar that was inspired by Brooklyn but felt timeless.”
5) The Breakfast Club
If you haven’t heard of this potent company, where have you been?
This is the ninth opening for the firm, which started in D’Arblay Street in Soho and will be known by a lot of Canary Wharf workers for its large Wigan Casino-inspired branch in Crossrail Place.
Here East’s outlet has gone back to the old school approach, according to assistant manager Izzy Sleeman.
She said: “All of The Breakfast Clubs are unique. This one is going back to its roots. We came and decorated it ourselves one weekend and we want people to feel really comfortable here.
“We have been surprised by the amount that have been here already.”