"The Water Poet - A million miles from the hassles in the City..."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
It wasn’t exactly a good day to try out a gastropub – I had just received the sad news of a friend’s demise, there were protesters trying to cause havoc on the City streets and there was a lot on my mind. Still, I left St Paul’s just after one and had a hassle free tube ride to Liverpool Street where I met my companion and we walked the five minutes along a bustling Bishopsgate to Folgate Street.
As we are both genuine Londoners (albeit not quite born within the range of Bow Bells) we were looking forward to experiencing a traditional East End pub. The exterior matches the positioning and the two large bar areas are certainly pleasant - lots of large comfy leather sofas (and one or two bright red chairs) as well as high tables with bar stools and warm and inviting décor. But with enough light to make it feel airy. There were some interesting things on the walls though – including a skeleton in a chair. In an adjacent room there are two pool tables – with red rather than green baize.
Walk through the bars (we were very tempted to sit and enjoy a drink there) where there were a few people sitting around – some reading newspapers on their own, some chatting in small groups and even a couple of business people talking in low tones, all very civilised, you are faced with two choices.
On the left is the entrance to the huge outside area. This should make the smokers happy! One area is covered on three sides and even has a sofa. The other areas are more traditional with an interesting mix of iron and more modern chrome garden furniture and plenty of tables, parasols and heaters. I liked the casual informality of lock up doors, air conditioning units and assorted ladders. There were even a couple of gilt mirrors that had escaped from the interior. Looking up towards the sky it was nice to see old London brick houses with modern City skyscrapers as a backdrop.
On the right – through heavy brocade curtains - is the restaurant area (you can also see through to the kitchen area – which is always reassuring). Whilst this is a spacious separate area it is clearly still part of a pub. Quality wooden tables and chairs. The walls are dark and dotted with cupids and large gilt mirrors - the decorator clearly had a good sense of irony. Whilst I expected it to be quiet for so late in the afternoon, there was a large group of students behaving impeccably and a further group of slightly older female workers having a good chat. There were also a couple of pairs of blokes. Students and suits, pensioners and fashionistas – anything appears to go here. Whilst I was in a business suit, my companion was more laid back Bohemian. Everyone felt comfy. Everyone fit in.
The staff were fantastic. Friendly and breezy. Attentive. Relaxed. They would make any eating establishment proud. It’s worth visiting just to be looked after by people like this.
Now the chef here – Bernadette Forde – had spent some time working alongside Richard Corrigan. By coincidence I had been to Corrigans in Mayfair just a few weeks ago. So I was expecting some hearty Irish fare.
I was presented with a special lunch menu (two courses for £9.95 or three for £12.95) as well as the bar menu which included staples such as cumberland sausages with mustard mash and gravy (£8.50), beer battered fish and chips with creamed peas and home made tartare sauce (£9.95), rib eye steak sandwich with caramelized onions, salad and chips (£8.95). Vegetarians would be tempted with the mushroom, spinach and parmesan risotto (£8.50). Watching my fellow diners being served, the burger looked particularly attractive.
Anyway, I tried the pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad for my starter. Single leaf salad, ripe but not overpowering gorgonzola and crisp walnuts in a fresh dressing. My colleague’s carrot and coriander soup was warm and tasty and with just the right amount of coriander – although we were disappointed that it was served with ordinary bread whereas some of the other starters featured soda bread.
The main courses were substantial. A large dish of potato and creamy smoked wedmore gratin was accompanied by a huge firm herby tomato and a healthy pile of wilted spinach. My colleague had opted for the chicken and avocado Caesar salad which was again single leaf and with boiled egg garnish.
I washed mine down with a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio (beautifully chilled and dry) and some tap water, whilst my colleague enjoyed his “perfect” London Pride bitter. The music was interesting – some might say eclectic, others might say haphazard – everything from African folk, to dance and alternative – but you had to pay attention to hear it and it was a good talking point.
I admit that the staff, atmosphere, food and drink and my companion’s repartee meant that my mood did start to mellow – as I left it felt like I was a million miles from the hassles in the City. So the Water Poet gets my vote.
Many have commented that the place gets really busy in the evening – so if you plan to make the trip across town then it’s probably best to book. But being just a hop, skip and jump from all that the City has to offer, it would be easy for you to pop in and try it out when you are next passing.
KimT reviewed The Water Poet on Fri 03 Apr 2009