If you’re not British but have heard of Wapping, it’s probably because you read something about Rupert Murdoch’s fight with unions in the 1980s. That’s how I first heard about Wapping, anyway (in Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” – a must-read if you move to the UK or are an anglophile).
Happily, when Jon and I met our friends for lunch in Wapping this weekend, there were no signs of labor unrest.
Wapping is a neighborhood whose significant features include centuries-old brick warehouses lining the Thames, so it’s no wonder that Wapping Food‘s decor is industrial chic. The pluses of converting a hydraulic power station into an art gallery/restaurant are the wide spaces and soaring ceilings.
Things were off to a good start with fresh bread baked on site. I couldn’t get enough of the crispy, olive-y ciabatta, and after we asked for a second basket, our server told us to slow down or we’d ruin our lunch. Fair enough, but a surprising bit of commentary.
The menu was modern British (aka New American or nouvelle cuisine, depending on your country). I started with a nettle and smoked mozzarella tart hoping to relive the lunch I had once at the Chez Panisse cafe (where the wild nettle pizza was deliciously nutty and bitter).Sadly, the pastry was flaky but kind of flavorless (was it all shortening and no butter?), and the nettles had been blended with so much cheese that it might as well have been spinach, or anything green, really. I did enjoy the clouds of salty, creamy smoked mozzarella, though, so good thing that was piled on.
Andy’s scallops and black pudding sounded appealing when we were reading the menu, but when it arrived at our table, it looked a bit overcooked to me. This comment is admittedly unfair because I didn’t taste the scallops personally, and I didn’t ask Andy what he thought of them. But just look at the photo above to see what I mean.
My roast lamb and potato-and-parsnip dauphinois was the star of the table. A generous portion of rare, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth lamb. Crispy layers of potato melded by anchovy-rosemary butter to sweet, nutty layers of parsnip. An elegant, tasty twist on the good ol’ meat and potatoes combo.
Jon and Maggie’s potato-and-goat cheese ravioli (pretty much pierogi) were pillowy and tasty, too, so a shout out to that generous portion of comfort food.
The roast pigeon left Andy the disappointed diner. The pigeon was served whole in the ever-snazzy bacon-helicopter style. Andy gave that pigeon his best DIY effort sans steak knife, but to no avail. That bird was hardened on the outside, sinewy on the inside, which meant it was difficult to cut up.
We’d been having such a fun time during our meal that we didn’t mind too much the 45 minute-wait between our appetizers and mains, but when Andy politely mentioned to our server that he didn’t like the pigeon, we were treated to a patronizing comment about how pigeon is an acquired taste. Because obviously you wouldn’t order pigeon just because you’d had it several times before at other restaurants and enjoyed it.
The restaurant is in a great space, steps from the Thames (and directly across the street from the 500-year-old Prospect of Whitby Pub). Our food was mostly delicious, and the service, with the exception of the pigeon comment, was good enough that I won’t avoid going back.
With a menu running £5-8 for appetizers and mains at £13-18, our tab came to £23 per person.