Brought to you by the team behind Acorn House, Waterhouse is the latest environmentally friendly restaurant to hit the capital. Organic food, energy saving refrigerators, chemical-free cleaning materials, wormeries and composting – you get the idea.
Going with the whole environmental theme, Waterhouse only uses only renewable hydroelectric power to heat and cool the restaurant, and therefore they need to be near a source of water. Unfortunately, the spot they’ve chosen is on Regent’s Canal, in a kind of no man’s land above Hoxton and between Islington and Dalston. The nearest tube, Old Street, is about a half hour walk away and the neighbourhood (mainly residential except for a string of Vietnamese restaurants on the main road) isn’t one of the best.
Once inside though, prospects brighten up a bit. Wherever possible, sustainable, eco-friendly materials have been used to create the decor and the effect is light and friendly. Lights on wooden beams hang from the ceiling, and light wood tables are paired with metal chairs. The room is square and relatively small, with a bar along one side and an open kitchen off another. There’s a patio with a large wooden table and benches that offer views of the canal, but perhaps that view is best left to night-time when you can’t see the graffiti on the wall opposite. At the front entrance is a desk made out of an enormous tree stump – hopefully from a sustainable forest! And finally, much fuss has been made about the restaurant having paperless toilets, but upon visiting it just looks like a normal loo – albeit a very clean one – with plenty of toilet roll available.
The service is friendly and staff know the menu inside-out. It’s a relaxed environment with low-key, trendy music playing. Sadly – certainly due to its location – on a weeknight the place is practically empty and because of the open kitchen you can see that there are as many staff as diners, if not more. Hopefully on a weekend it fills up a bit.
Waterhouse is easily worth the trek for the food alone. The menu is seasonal, with daily specials. From the winter menu, starters run from £6 - £9 and include smoked mackerel with celeriac and apple remoulade and duck confit and cardamom risotto. The smoked mackerel is lovely, with deep orange-coloured pieces of the fish resting on a bed of crisp shredded apple and celeriac, which makes for a good mix of textures and sweet and smoky tastes. The duck risotto is also recommended, creamy and with a perfectly thick consistency and large shredded pieces of tender, lightly salted duck.
Mains range from £12 - £16 and, out of the seven dishes, two are suitable for vegetarians. The potato ravioli is made with white truffle oil and Parmesan, a really good blend of almost meaty flavours, but the ravioli tastes slightly too watery. The seared paradise prawns are fantastic: plump, tender and juicy and seasoned perfectly so that the flavour of the prawns come through. These are served on a bed of black rice, small, purplish grains that taste much heartier than normal rice and are served slightly al dente.
Desserts are mainly British and all under £5, except for a triple cheese plate which is £10.50. The bittersweet chocolate tart is a winner, not too rich and just sweet enough, with an almost mousse-like consistency on a crisp base. This is served with a black pepper ice cream that pretty much tastes like vanilla, although you can see the grains of pepper mixed through. Another good choice is the sticky lemon cake - moist and extremely lemony without being bitter – and a dollop of creme fraiche sprinkled with lemon zest.
All in all you can expect to pay about £90 for a three course meal with a bottle of one of the lower-priced wines. Certainly not cheap – and definitely the highest in the neighbourhood – but not extravagant for the quality of the food.
The wine list looks mostly French and Italian, with eight whites, nine reds and eight types available by the glass. Bottles range from £21 all the way up to £74. From the reds, the A Mano Primitivo di Puglia 2006, for £21, is a crisp choice with a nice dark red colour.
The Last Word
This is a very solid restaurant with the skills to back up its laudable aims. You almost want to pick it up out of its strange location and plop it back down in leafy Richmond or by the docks in Greenwich, anywhere that draws crowds. The food is fantastic and Waterhouse deserves to have people queuing round the block to get in, and hopefully they will soon. Book your table before it gets too crowded.