Here’s a New Year’s resolution: visit Stratford. Not for the predictable chains at Westfield despite the dubious lure of on-tap Prosecco at Aspers Casino or even the genuine, flavourful draw of Levi Roots’ “rasta-rant”.
Instead look for the unexpected gems of East Village.
The former athletes’ dorm district was, post rebirth, not much of a prospect for those seeking interesting food or flavourful drinks.
The whole place appeared made for the inevitable arrival of the likes of Slug And Lettuce, Costa and Sainsbury’s.
Too suburban for an All Bar One, perhaps a little upmarket for a Wetherspoon’s.
But instead, square footage has been filled by independents. A chain-free policy has seen 28 of the 30-odd spaces taken by small operators, Hackney Village transplanted to the Stalinist mound of Stratford.
Craft beer, fine food and vintage wine have flowed in and look to be thriving.
Towards the end of 2016, I attended a pop-up by celebrated chef Henry Harris, formerly of Racine.
The venue was Darkhorse, a modern European restaurant that’s been going just over a year.
Its unrefined grafting of Italian enotheca onto industrial root stock makes for a pleasing continental backdrop, perhaps not ideal for Harris’ duck-heavy French bistro, but a lodestone of attraction for any Canary Wharf worker seeking a warm, neighbourly atmosphere.
Located in Victory Parade, the place has the distinct whiff of success about it and while you’ll be getting their food rather than Harris’, the exemplary service will remain.
It’s reasonable too with the mains around £16 and small plates for about £7.
If you’re doing dry January, a warning – the wine’s cheap enough to tempt even broke early-2017 wallets, the logic being you’ll need a glass to for warmth on the lengthy stroll to the Tube.
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