Barge East is one of Hackney Wick’s more recognisable landmarks - a lovely moored barge right on the Lea Navigation Canal. With the sun out, the expansive greenery of the Olympic Park on one side and Hackney Wick’s al fresco bars and restaurants on the other, Barge East arguably has the best spot in town.
If you want to sit outside there are lots of tables up on the mainland, and Barge East serves an easy-going terrace menu to go with the copious beers you’re likely to drink. But, in the redecorated bowels of the barge itself there’s a proper restaurant, complete with modern British a la carte, tasting menu and cocktails too. It’s a tidy, compact space that manages to not feel cramped - at the far end a busy open kitchen turns out some impressive food, especially given the constraints.
You might not expect it from the outside, but there’s real restaurant-quality food here. A starter of asparagus, apricot, mushroom XO and lovage might just be our favourite of the whole menu - the asparagus spears have been gently turned over a barbecue, so they still have bite, and the accompaniments are fresh, earthy and sweet. A main of venison loin, potato terrine and blackberries is another showcase of the skill in the kitchen - the loin is nicely cooked, cured venison ham adds another element to the dish, and a buttermilk dressing ties everything together. There are some very quaffable cocktails too, many of which add little twists to classic mixes.
Desserts didn’t quite live up to the same standard - a pud of hazelnut cake, sorrel and tonka bean cream was smartly devised, but the execution lacked a bit of finesse, and the same could be said for a gooey chocolate mille-feuille with rhubarb. All-in-all though, Barge East nails most of what it sets out to do, and the limitations of cooking on a barge make that all the more impressive.