I was astounded when I entered East Village. I hadn’t visited since the 2012 Olympics when the area was buzzing with sporting camaraderie and patriotic pride. With the Brits cleaning up at the big sporting event, Stratford was propelled into the spotlight as the latest London area to be seen. Luckily the trend has continued long after the gold medals have been handed out and the former athletes village has been converted into a neighbourhood of its own, with a range of stunning flats, independent restaurants, shops and so much green area you might actually believe you’ve left the capital.
Arriving on a balmy spring evening, the village was an advertisement for itself. It looked like a scene from a movie set and if I didn’t know otherwise, I would have believed the whole place had been set up for our visit. Young muscular men kicked a football around an open green space, couples clad in lycra jogged down the designated pathways, mums with buggies strolled side by side, chatting and laughing.
From the balcony of one of the ultra-modern three-bed flats we looked on at the utopian scene that unfolded before us. London is always magical when the sun is shining; I think its residents are the most skilled in the entire world in extracting every last ounce of joy from the rays that are often a rarity in our great city. We spill out into the streets, parks, rooftop bars and any green patch of space we can find, to enjoy every hour of sunshine that is bestowed upon us and East Village is no exception to this.
We were there to experience a taste of ShareEast – the unique scheme set up to bring residents of East Village together, where members take it in turn to host a monthly supperclub or dining experience.
The wonderfully talented Ravinder Bhogal was creating the menu and every last element was planned and perfectly executed. A four-course feast of middle-Eastern fusion cuisine was served to us, alongside some expertly paired wines by Bottle Apostle, the fast-growing succession of wine shops, one of which will be opening in East Village as part of the independent-only offering to its residents.
The Bottle Apostle shop will be opening in June 2015 and if you happen to have visited the Hackney or Clapham branches you will know what’s in store. The wines are shelved and labeled in a clear concise way, so that you can find a wine to match your meal or mood with relative ease. Bottle Apostle mainly works with small independent wineries and a painstaking amount of detail goes into choosing their wine and suppliers. This results in amazing quality and unique options that you wouldn’t usually find on your supermarket shelves. It seems now more than ever we care about where our produce comes from and who we’re supporting when we buy it, which the store has capitalized on. If you can’t easily find what you need, the knowledgeable staff are on-hand to help and make suggestions.
Alongside a refreshing glass of crisp, fresh Brut, we were served a delicious heaped spoon of salmon tartate and bulgar wheat with spices. Next was Smoked Aubergine Two Ways, which was outstanding. I love the mushy texture of roasted aubergine and how well it absorbs spices and flavours.
This was followed by a deliciously spiced honey roast quail, which arrived on a bed of mujadarra rice, crispy onions and Labneh. The French/Spanish grape blend, which was served alongside this, was perfectly matched; it was a warm, velvety red wine by The Original Spaniard and one, which I’d definitely try again. Having seen Ravinder work her magic on the small screen it was a real treat to have her creating some of her dishes especially for us. The dessert was an indulgent plate of fresh flavours and delicate textures. I am always a fan of dessert which uses more than just sweetness to delight its diner and this was certainly one of those. A lovingly crafted wobbly Panna Cotta had sweet and subtle floral undertones of rose and a creamy texture. It was served with a baby coconut meringue, cruncy pistachio brittle and cardamom stewed rhubarb. It was an absolute delight and luckily we were given the recipe card so we could recreate the magic ourselves, although I fear my attempt may only be an insult to what Ravinder created…
A not-too-sweet dessert wine accompanied it, which fitted the bill exceptionally. Working with such a talented chef to create a wine menu that was complimentary and just as stunning as the food was a tough bill to meet but the skilled team from Bottle Apostle rose to the challenge.
After an evening of wining and dining I longed to curl up on the sofa and watch the twinkly London skyline from the comfort of what I wished was my living room, but sadly I had to make my way back across the city to my real home. Enjoying an evening amongst new friends in one of these luxury apartments was a great demonstration of how easily it could feel like home. The area of Stratford is soon to become swallowed up into zone two and the renovation and work that has gone into the area is a good sign of what’s to come. With one of Europe’s biggest shopping centres on your doorstep and great transport links into central London, it’s no surprise that the flats of East Village are being snapped up at speed.
The truly impressive thing is the community feel that East Village Stratford have managed to create in such a short space of time. It could easily have felt like an overly forced or constructed concrete jungle built in an uninhabited corner of the city, but it felt none of these things, quite the opposite in fact. This series of Supperclubs is a great opportunity for the residents to get to know each other and build on this community feel.
For more information visit www.eastvillagelondon.co.uk