Cross over a green carpeted drawbridge, and step into the disheveled Nineties. Although it is undoubtedly a floating novelty, with the constantly expanding Canary Wharf developments erupting around it, the Lotus seems slightly out of touch with its shiny new neighbours. However, with its refusal to revamp, the elegant pond-skater has kept its charm.
Proudly displayed in iridescent neon, the Lotus’ name flickers off the slanted gable roof, reflecting red ripples in the water. Draped with cobwebs of white fairy-lights, the two-tiered, balcony girdled restaurant appears to be a gift-wrapped jewel from the outside. The inside, however, doesn’t quite live up to the alluring exterior. With once-golden tablecloths and cheap burgundy chairs, the faded glamour fails to be disguised. The lighting and red panelled walls are so sheer that the waterside view is disappointingly compromised by harsh reflections of the restaurant’s interior. Chinese artwork lines the walls and a central glass cabinet displays an interesting mix of china figurines, stone carvings and the ornamental Maneki Neko waving cats.
A blend of families, business parties and couples, the Lotus caters for all-comers. The relaxed and cheery staff are a pleasant change from the more snooty bars on the opposing shore of South Quay and the air is laced with general merriment, even if the Westlife Greatest Hits CD that's on repeat might drive some to distraction.
If you’re a sucker for complimentary prawn crackers, then you’re in for a treat. Wafer-light and full of flavour, the crispy crackers offer a good introduction. The chicken with orange sauce (£7) is beautifully presented with twisted slices of orange, and while it's ravishingly tangy the portion is sparse, even when teamed with similarly skimpy helpings of egg-fried rice (£4) and pan-fried noodles with beansprouts (£5). The aromatic duck pancakes (£10 a quarter), are sweet and cooked to perfection, but again the meat is diminutive in quantity compared to similar Chinese restaurants.
The wine menu offers a range of European and Australian options. The house recommended Pink Elephant rosé wine (£4.50, 125ml) is crisp with hints of raspberry, and refreshing enough to make you want another glass. The standard mix of spirits and soft drinks are also available and Champagne bottles range from £19.50 to £150.
The Last Word
With all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets in abundance over London, it’s difficult to justify the pricing in the Lotus. The food is flavoursome, but portions of this size would only be warranted if served in a high-class setting, and not in a run down venue in Canary Wharf. Novelty and pleasant service aside, this is probably one to avoid.