Of all the places I’ve eaten in, few come more unique and intriguing than the Wapping Project. With its towering ceilings, cavernous expanses and abundance of natural light streaming in from all directions, this former hydraulic power station turned restaurant and modern art gallery provides one of the most striking settings for a meal in London.
Just wandering around the dining area is like travelling back in time to the peak of the Industrial Revolution. Much of the original machinery and features from the 19th century London Hydraulic Power Company remain wonderfully preserved – valves, chains, pumps, pulleys… all blending in side by side with modern dining furniture classics from Panton and Eames. Venture towards the back of the power station where the boiler house and pump rooms once were and you will find a full blown gallery exhibiting contemporary art and fashion installations all year round. It’s a glorious example of how to restore life into the remnants of Victorian yesteryear and full kudos has to be given to its owner and brainchild, Jules Wright who launched the project 12 years ago.
The Modern European cuisine here for the most part is inventive, bold and flavoursome. A rustic starter of wild mushrooms, egg yolk, potato crisps and mint was full of earthy girolle goodness, balanced by the richness of the egg yolk and fresh zing from the mint. Mackerel cerviche with cucumber and clementine pieces was less successful – the wasabi-spiked, orange juice marinade was too watery and the flavours just didn’t quite work together.
Main courses were generally well-executed and came in good-sized portions. Roast rack of lamb was tender yet meaty and cooked to a nice, rosy pink. I did however find the aubergine purée much too smoky and preferred the more subtle confit aubergine on the side.
Cod with Cavolo Nero, lardo and walnuts was the better of the two mains. The fish was cooked beautifully and I particularly liked how they had prepared the Cavolo Nero – the stems and leaves were tender yet not over wilted, maintaining a bit of bite.
Best of the lot though was dessert. Baked, caramelised black figs, served over creamy, air-light ricotta with a generous sprinkling of toasted almonds that had been coated in honey. It was hard to come back down from cloud nine after this one. What a winner.
With damage coming up to £80 for the of 2 us including a couple glasses of vino from their fully-Aussie wine list, it’s slightly dear for what it is if you ask me, especially given one or two elements missed the mark. Service was also admittedly a little patchy at times. Dishes were often served without any introduction and no apologies were made when they got what the pair of us ordered the wrong way round. They weren’t particularly rude or anything, but I got the sense they weren’t going to go out of their way to pamper us.
Hit-and-miss-ness aside, I still think the spectacular setting and ambience alone makes the trek off the beaten track here completely worth it. You won’t get the chance to lunch in an old Victorian hydraulic power station anywhere else.
Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, Wapping Wall, E1W 3SG | thewappingproject.com | Sun 8th Oct 2012