Category: Brasserie (£££)
I have been to Wapping Food years ago on an admittedly not very exciting date, and the venue left a more pronounced impression on me than the guy. Â The Wapping Project which includes Wapping Food must be one of the coolest art spaces/ restaurant in London.
The restaurant is situated in an old and barely restored Victorian hydraulic power station close to the Thames in Wapping, with tables scattered between old machinery and a majestic ceiling towering above. A multitude of candles distributed throughout the restaurant bath the space into a warm light while art books and magazine remind you that the main theme here is art.
On our recent visit, an impressive 3 D dance short film (The Revery Alone by Billy Cowie) played in the vaults, to be enjoyed while lying in the dark in one of the prison style beds.
Pic by Time Out LondonÂ
Outside in a small pavillion/ greenhouse, a creative lady was working on her sound project which we participated in. She was recording heart beats of random visitors with a stethoscope attached to a computer which she then played back to us. Her ultimate goal is to create a symphony of heart beats, very charming indeed!
If just the food had matched the surroundings!
The menu led to a long discussion around the table. My dinner companions were unsure about the nature of many of the ingredients (and we are talking sophisticated and educated people) and even I had to pass on quite a few menu items. What is seaweed dust supposed to be? Borage? Pil Pil Sauce? Gribiche? At least I could help in explaining sumac, za’tar, finnochiona, and cow’s curd. While it’s always quite fun to have some unknown factors on the menu, one should be able to understand most of it, I think. An exception is Michelin starred complicated dining where you can lean back and trust the chef to do things right. At a place like Wapping Food this overcomplicated menu seemed suspicious of a chef who puts show over substance and indeed my suspicion was later confirmed.
Scallop, Radish, Peach and Seaweed Dust (7.5) did not live up to its grand promise. Very stingy on the scallops (they were cut into thin slices and not more than one whole scallop could have been used), the dish mainly tasted of ripe peaches, which would have been lovely had it been a dessert. As a starter it was a no as the scallops were totally lost and might as well not have been on the plate at all. And seaweed dust? I assume it was the dirt dust sprinkled all over the dish and I spent a long time trying to allocate a flavour to it. I concluded that seaweed dust is totally tasteless and a complete waste of space and as a result I am not surprised that seaweed dust has not found its way into general use. I fear its big moment will never come. The best dish and also the prettiest presentation came in the form of the Cured Salmon, Mustard Sauce, Samphire (9) and it just confirms that simple is the best. The salmon was beautifully fresh and subtly cured giving it a slightly sweet flavour. Together with the salty samphire and the mild mustard sauce this worked a dream.
The vegetarian main (I am going through a vegetarian phase at the moment) Candy Beetroot, Cow’s Curd, Wheat and Soft Herbs (16) would have been fine had it been served in a little lunch cafe around the corner for 7 quid. However, for a restaurant with high end prices, this was just not hitting the mark. The beetroot was too sweet, but the cow’s curd was tasty and with the right support this could have been quite lovely. However, the (enormous) bed of flavourless wheat was definitely something that gives vegetarian cuisine its bad reputation, fit for rabbits but not for people and not for 16 pounds!! I only had a small taste of the Cod, Lentil Puree and Gribiche (17.5) (which by the way is a mayonnaise based cold egg sauce, thanks Wikipedia!) and we concluded that it was not bad, the fish was nicely cooked, but as a whole did not blow us away.
The service was not great either. We told our first waiter that we would like to pour the wine ourselves (particularly as we had a couple of teenagers with us who we intended to keep sober) and after the third waiter in a row ignored our wish and poured generously, we got rather annoyed actually. I know waiters are trained to push wine, but the customer’s wish should still be priority!
I definitely recommend Wapping Project for a drink and to enjoy the cutting edge art and fabulous atmosphere after you have eaten somewhere else. Honestly, the food at Wapping Food is just not worth it.
- Food: 6/10
- Ambiance: 10/10
- Service: 5/10
- Value for Money: 5/10
- Chances of Returning: 5%
- Verdict: supercool venu, interesting art and fun installations – shame that the food doesn’t match up.