Elliott Lidstone impresses Hazel Nevard at The Empress, with his culinary delights...
As a former resident of Victoria Park, Hackney, who was always at a loss to find somewhere I could eat in the area, I was not surprised to hear that the Empress had been bold enough to bring in top Chef Elliot Lidstone, who has 12 years experience of working in Michelin starred restaurants. I was keen to go back to my old stomping ground and find out if the dining desert this side of Shoreditch was beginning to flourish.
I arrived after my guest, who I found relaxing on a sofa, drinking chilled beer and he told me he had expected this to be an Asian restaurant (and I am sure he is not the first). My first impression was of an overall freshness. I have a theory that the flowers in a restaurant are a pretty good guide to the food served. I smiled at the vast array of tiny flowering narcissi that peeped towards the light from the windows.
The Empress is not a pretentious dining room, it is light and as I said before, fresh. Clientele continued to arrive and I noticed they seemed to be a certain type – relaxed. The menu which dares to be different offering English and European dishes, designed to share – perfect for the chilled out diners.
As a dog lover and someone who enjoys the crackling on pork, I have often wished there was an ‘Escoffier’ version of the pigs ears my pooches devour... well there is. Fine slivers of pigs ear in a little paper bag and a side pot of Caramel Sauce for dipping was the first dish to arrive. I lost my eagerness to share and wished that my guest had been put off by eating the ear of a pig, he had not. Next we shared a dish of snails, bone marrow and wild garlic, along with purple sprouting broccoli, goat’s cheese curd and sesame, then came the rainbow trout (with beautiful crispy skin), Jersey Royals and braised lettuce, along with a dish of pearl barley and cauliflower risotto with hazelnuts, which was memorable. This food was yummy (ok, not a sophisticated term that’s what it was). The ginger panna cotta with rhubarb that followed rounded my meal off perfectly and I didn’t share any of it.
The wine list was quite extensive, not expensive and with a good choice by the glass. At £23 a bottle I can highly recommend the Pecorino, a zingy little number. Spring has arrived, so go for a wander around the beautiful Victoria Park and then saunter along Lauriston Road and wander into this bright and breezy restaurant.
Written by Hazel Nevard
130 Lauriston Road, Victoria Park , London, E9 7LH
Tel: 0208 533 5123