Frugal feast at an old favourite – The Empress, Victoria Park

It’s been ages since I last updated this blog. Life got in the way, diarising my family’s eating habits felt less important and I bought a new house in Devon, which stalkers and holidaymakers can rent out over the holidays – so long as they don’t daub my name in blood upon its pristine white walls (or spatter any other form of matter for that matter).

Readers may, in fact shortly find that I start reviewing the restaurants in the North Devon area, as opposed to East London – which may or may not be an incentive to discover the region for themselves, as I grow increasingly disillusioned by life in the world’s most expensive capital. But for now, I’m back in Tower Hamlets.  Which is why, just across the border, in the rather more salubrious environs of Crackney – or rather Victoria Park villarge, I enjoyed a meal so sublime that I felt honour bound to write it up so that others can enjoy such fine fodder at such great value. And just a little jaunt down the road from Family Tiger’s main residence – all that my four-times sprained ankle can currently muster, we’ll no doubt be back for second helping again soon.

It’s a shame, then, that The Empress’, in Hackney’s Lauriston Road Frugal Feasts only take place once a month, although the good news is that every Tuesday is BYO night, which rather puts an end to any excuses for early week abstemiousness. But being rare, as is the opportunity for Tiger Tom and I to go out of an evening,  it made it more of an occasion. The restaurant was packed out for a Tuesday – which gave it a rather festive atmosphere – and for good reason too. The food was fabulous.

I rather spoiled my appetite, coming straight from meeting Tom after work at the First Dates bar, near where he works in the heart of the city, where I became giddy on G and T and a cheeky glass of Chapel Down – the English sparkling wine we’d drunk at our wedding, which, incidentally took place – the reception at least – at the Empress of India, back when it was so named, down the dark and dusty annals of time.

wedding Empress
Having hodgepodge childcare and busy lives, we don’t get out much on our own (did I mention that too?) so it felt fitting, on the occasion of Tom getting yet another year older, to revisit an old haunt. And given the cost (too much) of having a teenager feed my children junk food and leave us all the pans to clean up when we get home these days – (not to (did I?) mention a second home, dining out at the rather bargain price of £22 plus BYO from posh local tipple shop Bottle Apostle made the whole endeavour much easier to swallow. And being so close to home, we were able to shuffle back by 8.30 with just enough energy to clean up after the childminder. Joyous times!

 

Nettle and sheep ricotta soup, and smoke ham hock
In any case, we’d eaten like Kings for the price of a pauper, with fresh foraged ingredients making a vivid and velvety Nettle soup (which I do believe has staved off today’s hangover) and wild garlic with a main of Guinea fowl leg, with perfectly pressed dauphinoise potatoes. 

Guinea fowl with wild garlic and pressed potatoes

Tom enjoyed his smoked ham hock starter, and we both enjoyed custard tart with rhubarb jam to finish, just tart enough to cut the sweetness, and flavoured with orange that gave the jam a marmalade flavour that Tom found a little bitter, but I loved it– and the kids, when I bought the remained of my generous slice, having soaked up the aforementioned gin and fizz on too good to pass on E5 Bakehouse bread, while topping back up on a good bottle of French rose, also thought was delicious.

 


With sparkling, though swift service from a Scotsman with a Billy Connolly accent it was, in all, a night out to savour – and more than fitting for the night before Tom’s birthday and our nearly ten year wedding anniversary.


Tiger rating *****

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