Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Empress

You will never get me to move from my much loved Hackney locale, but this E9 eatery has a real draw. The Empress of India in the lovely little neighbourhood that is Victoria Park offers something that we are sorely lacking in Chatsworth Road. Well, two things: somewhere good to eat and somewhere good to drink. Head chef Elliott Lidstone, with a wealth of experience of working in Michelin starred restaurants, presides over the Empress at 130 Lauriston Road. I love the fact that the Empress uses supplies from its nearby shops. Meat comes from the much-loved Ginger Pig and the splendid Jonathan Norris supplies the fish.

Expect light, tapas style dishes with a British/Mediterranean flavour that are good for sharing and grazing.  My waiter kindly advised me that I shouldn't miss the crispy pigs ear with apple sauce and he was right. This is the kind of bold offering that the Empress does very well. The ham croquettes, on the other hand were rather bland and underwhelming. Other appealingly strong dishes are centred around snails, mackerel or shoulder of lamb. The menu changes frequently according to which seasonal British produce is available and is pleasingly paired down,  which tends to signal a confident kitchen.

The light-flooded interior makes an equally powerful statement. Diners sit under large pendulum lights surrounded by exposed brick decorated with giant dog prints, while drinkers at the long pewter bar can catch glimpses of Victoria Park from the enormous windows. I will return for supper, but not before visiting to sample a dish or two from the delightful sounding brunch menu.