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Paradise Garage – heaven by way of Bethnal Green

The team behind The Dairy in Clapham and its sister restaurant The Manor doesn’t really need an introduction – certainly not by me, as I can’t really claim to be much of a regular there. I have admired the establishments from afar, and only once squeezed a business lunch at The Dairy, which I really liked but went undocumented (i.e. non- Instagrammed or tweeted) as I didn’t want to reveal myself as the shallow social-media addict showoff that I am in a work context. I mostly blame my laziness when it comes to go both West AND South of the river from my East London bubble, although I do travel when a place proves to be really worth it after the initial hype- as it was the case with The Dairy.

When I heard that Robin Gill and team were opening a new outpost in a much closer postcode – and one which is also close to my heart as it was my first ever London flat, I was happy but also wary. Would it be yetanother oh-so-trendy, “small plates big bills”, hipster-pleasing place down to the last exposed brick wall and metalwork detail? And indeed the location seemed to suggest that, and yes, Paradise Garage at first side ticks many of these cliched boxes, starting from the location- the refurbishment of a previously unused railway arch- much like the nearby Mission E2, Beagle, and Tonkotsu East.

Thanks to well-connected friend and London food scene chronicler ClerkenwellBoy, we managed to score a table on the first night of opening after the “family and friends” dry runs, and still enjoy the 25% discount on food and drinks. The fact that we felt that the discount was not really justified by any less-than-perfect standard of food or service pretty much sums up our evening. Our expectations were high, but we were not disappointed. Paradise Garage offers both a prix fixe tasting menu for the table, or a’ la carte dining. In our enthusiasm, we wanted to try as much of the menu as possible so opted for the latter and ordered like crazy.

I will “let the pictures speak for themselves” – yes it’s a horribly trite sentence but quite appropriate in this case, as clearly Gill’s cooking style relies in equal parts on style and substance. Mind I say “style”, but as in much of modern fine dining London style, form doesn not equal just fussy, over complicated presentation – it is really more about thinking of the dining experience holistically, as a bit of a theatre. Cue the showstopper dish of whole rabbit to share, cooked five ways without the affectation of even declaring it on the menu; definitely an iconic (also incidentally, highly-Instagrammable) piece de resistance, that will make a great and unconventional Sunday roast.

Paradise garage dishes

*THAT* rabbit – roast saddle, confit leg, turnover, offal and belly, scratchings and all the trimmings

Presentation at Paradise Garage had just the right amount of oomph to make justice to the dishes’ essence and showcase beautifully the textures and tastes beautifully. So in short no pretty plates for the sake of pretty plates – although these were exceptionally so, including the vessels themselves, handmade pottery and even rough, heavy marble bowls. Suitably unfamiliar-sounding ingredients are also abundant on the menu – I consider myself a well-educated eater, but had to google and ask my way around mousserons and nasturtium (I know, shame on me).

Desserts are visually amazing and very moreish, yet subtle; I don’t feel I can make full justice to them as I am not a sweet tooth, but I found a combo of almond cream, berries and beer crackers (!) especially memorable.

With the opening week discount our bill was almost risible, but even at full prices a 5-course tasting menu comes to £45 and there are interesting bottles around the same price mark. so definitely a great value proposition even for the area.

Paradise Garage in a paragraph: Bethnal Green location, artfully unusual ingredients, painstaking presentation, idiosyncratic wine list, artisan plates, cool looking and sounding stuff – yes, potentially this place had so much going to risk being classified as yet just another one of “that type” of restaurant, or an imitator. I almost wanted to dislike it, but couldn’t fault it as it was all so bloody brilliant and heartfelt, so count this cynic as another converted to the charms of Paradise Garage. If this is just the start of a story, long it may continue!

Square Meal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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