The Water House Project: Social Fine Dining in Bethnal Green

The Water House Project is a supper club in Bethal Green by Chef Gabriel Waterhouse aimed at making seasonal fine dining more accessible and more social. I came across it on Instagram where I was immediately captivated by the innovative ideas and creative menu – in particular a cheese course of Perl Las blue with a nigella seed and rye biscuit and Oloroso sherry and pear sorbet (drooling!). The more I scrolled through their feed the more my mouth watered: stout ice-cream with chocolate soil and puffed barley; pickled wild mushrooms with a mushroom and sherry puree; whipped marmite butter served on a stone; an edible goose fat candle with pink peppercorns for dipping their homemade sourdough. It looked exciting and I couldn’t wait to try this place!

We entered the workshop of a family-run tile business called Bert & May where the tables were all beautifully laid out for the evening. It was a fantastic setting for a supper club with the industrial feel and colourful tiles lining the walls all around.

We were served our aperitif as we arrived: a deliciously bitter-sweet Campari Americano made with vermouth and garnished with a slice of blood orange. We stood chatting as we waited to be called to our seats and perused the tile designs and of course the menu. Our first course of parsley root and apple cider velouté was served in tiny mugs while we were standing. It was so creamy and comforting! A great start to the evening.

Around 8pm we were invited to take our seats and there was a slightly mad dash for an available space. Whipped thyme butter was sat in a dollop/smear atop a cool stone (as per Water House Project style) while the homemade rosemary and potato sourdough was warmed and sliced. A roasted Calcot onion macerated in juices was served with goats curd and a macadamia crumb and alongside it a crisp glass of Viura white wine with apple and citrus notes. It was fascinating watching the team beavering away in the open kitchen getting our next courses plated immaculately.

Among my favourite courses (there were a few favourites so it was tricky to choose!) were the fish courses, both served with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. First up were delicate mussels cooked in a creamy white wine broth and served with fresh chives and a Jerusalem artichoke purée. I thought this dish was another creamy comforter perfect for an early spring evening. The soft textures were followed up with a contrasting squid ink cracker topped with smoked cod roe mousse, parsley purée, herring caviar, sprinkled with a herb dust.

Our main course was a small, tender piece of Herdwick lamb shoulder with an anchovy crumb and pickled shallots with mint oil. I found this dish ever so slightly on the salty side, but when I was able to get a mouthful with the pickled shallot and mint flavours it balanced fairly well.

My most eagerly anticipated course, a version of the dish that had initially sparked my interest in the Water House Project, was shavings of Stilton served with handmade rye crackers, celery cress and a quenelle of the most sweet, sharp and flavoursome conference pear sorbet. The sorbet was made with the skin as well so no morsel of flavour was lost. The sherry it was served with was the icing on the cake as well – a rich, sweet Palomino Fino.

Our pre-dessert of rhubarb fool ice cream was served on a freezing cold stone and the idea was to lick the ice cream right off the stone rather than using a spoon. The ice cream was delicious and it was certainly presented in a novel way, even if my hands were a bit numb after a while.

The final course was a sheep’s yoghurt sorbet with a chocolate soil and a shard of purple beetroot meringue. It was not too sweet and a lovely combination of textures with the crunchy soil, silky sorbet and melt-in-your-mouth meringue.

A choice of coffee or fresh mint tea was served with petit fours or freshly baked blood orange financiers and juniper fudge served in a beautifully carved wooden box.

We had a fantastic evening of delicious, carefully prepared food and some genius wine pairings. (They were actually selling each of the wines at the end of the evening for £20 a bottle so we treated ourselves to a couple of our favourites to take home.) During the evening Gabriel introduced each course so we were able to get a bit of insight into how the dishes had been prepared. You can tell that Gabriel and the team are passionate about what they’re doing. At £75 a ticket covering all of the food and drinks, I felt that it was not an overly expensive evening given the quality of food, the drinks and the London location.

For information on upcoming supper club dates, reservations and their sample seasonal menus, visit their website at www.thewaterhouseproject.com

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