The Waterhouse Project: 5-star dining in Bethnal Green
The Waterhouse project is one of the most inspiring fine dining experiences London is offering at the moment.
Gabriel’s core conception of convivial fine dining was conceived a couple of years ago, first in his own house, and then in a pop-up space on Mare Street, just around the corner. The new site, on a cobbled alleyway perched on the water’s edge, seems straight out of a picturesque London movie.
The Waterhouse Project challenges the perceptions of fine dining by offering an experience akin to a well-orchestrated dinner party, delivering dishes and drinks that spark conversation amongst strangers, including between diners and chefs.
Culture Whisper’s Holly O’Mahony and I ventured through the trendy backstreets of Bethan Green to experience Waterhouse’s venture.
Eleonore Dresch: Coming back from a weekend in Copenhagen and being so inspired by the foodie culture there, I must say I was first of all so impressed and delighted by the location of The Waterhouse Project. I mean, this is a showcase of London life. First the neighbourhood - you are an east Londoner and know much more about this corner than me. But coming from Chelsea, this felt like the coolest spot in the world. Forget Copenhagen!
Holly O’Mahony: Once we found it, you mean? We certainly took the scenic route after getting lost on the way. But you’re right; this triangle of east London between Victoria Park, Bethnal Green and London Fields is the throbbing heart of a foodie revolution. Restaurants such as Bright, Peg, Pidgin, Brawn, and now The Waterhouse Project offer destination dining to rival those found on the most gluttonous streets of Soho.
ED: And then when we finally found the restaurant, it had the successful mix of cool Scandi interiors but with a distinctly London feel. The high ceiling, the dim lights, the good crowd, attractive waiters and the messy surroundings.
HOM: I felt like I’d walked into a Scandi design showroom, but with the kind of warmth and chatter that’s unique to a buzzy London restaurant.
ED: I know you immediately inspected the loo…
HOM: ...Always a litmus test for how committed to an aesthetic a restaurant really is. With its house-scented candles, dried foliage and coffee table magazines, The Waterhouse Project passes with flying colours.
ED: And now onto the welcome - what a lovely bunch of people. It’s clear that behind Gabriel Waterhouse is a team dedicated to the concept.
HOM: Their enthusiasm for the menu and willingness to talk at length about the dishes and wine pairings was integral to making it all feeling so special. I think our table’s close proximity to the station where the finishing touches were added to each dish and the staff would huddle before delivering them really added to the experience, as we witnessed first-hand what a neatly executed act it all was.
ED: I am now reminiscing about the delicious September menu. My favourite was the St Ewes egg with celeriac, autumn truffle, hazelnut and brown butter. An exquisite combination of flavours, both crispy and nutty in texture. A perfect beginning for the autumn season.
HOM: Gosh, where to begin with that menu. The pork belly doughnut set the bar high and made me think of Adam Handling’s cheese-filled equivalents. The squid ink, mackerel and gooseberry parcels which looked like pieces of ravioli on a mossy forest floor have also stayed with me for the sheer depth of flavour. The deconstructed cheese course with its pumpkin granola was a star turn, both in appearance and taste. And do you remember the palate cleanser of diced cucumber with coconut, dill and herring roe? Truly inspired.
ED: I am also thinking about the plates and the ceramics. All were designed by the team in collaboration with Gabriel's sister in law Jo Marland. You can apparently purchase it in situ and soon online.
HOM: Or the autumnal foliage hanging from the ceiling. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes with the seasons.
ED: In my view, this is one of the most inspiring food experiences one can have in London at the moment. Haute cuisine in a cool and laid back atmosphere, plated in a beautiful spot and served by a welcoming team. No wonder it reportedly takes five weeks to get a booking. I would absolutely give it five stars.
HOM: I agree! It’s exciting to experience this level of fine dining channelled through such an intricately curated tasting menu in Bethnal Green. It gets a wholehearted five stars from me too, and I expect it won’t be long before it receives a star of the Michelin variety, either.
You can also catch Eleonore's interview with Gabriel Waterhouse on our Instagram page here.
And you can book a table for the Waterhouse project here.