Moored on the canals of Northeast London is Barge East: a floating restaurant and riverside bar that has expanded to become one of the largest outdoor dining venues in East London. Since setting anchor back in 2018, this Dutch barge, owned by three childhood friends has done pretty well for itself on the London restaurant scene, this includes being recognised as London’s Number 1 Restaurant 2019 – 2020 and Travellers’ Choice 2020 Tripadvisor awards.
The century-plus old barge is moored alongside its outdoor bar, edible garden and widespread outdoor seating for up to 300 people (with 30% set aside for walk-ins). Tying in with the al fresco garden theme, this also includes a line-up of greenhouses for intimate and private dining experiences. Perfectly capturing the character of this corner of the city, Barge East is the ideal place to meet friends for cocktails, craft beers and street food – and worth the journey should you be travelling from the other side of town.
Food follows a British themed menu with clever twists throughout to reflect the creativity of the barge’s East London surroundings. Aboard the barge itself is a somewhat more refined restaurant dining experience – spanning from a set dinner, Saturday or Sunday Roast menus.
Meanwhile, outdoors I sampled the Street Kitchen offering, available alongside ‘The Flatbread Society’ under the guidance of their new Head Chef, Stefano Camplone. Designed as a unique yet tasty variety of seasonal street food offerings, dishes follow a familiar theme with unexpected twists. For example, a hoisin duck scotch egg which envelopes a soft poached egg wrapped in Asian duck and pork mince served with plum sauce, or a roasted tomato hummus served with a mint shallot dressing and pea shoots on flatbread.
Meanwhile, main dishes jump between, meat, fish and veggie options. Choose from the impossibly irresistible Hackney cheesesteak burger which layers sliced roast beef, sauteed onions and peppers in a rich bourbon and coffee sauce, topped with homemade cheese whizz. An indulgent (and messy) vegan-friendly option also includes the pulled chipotle jackfruit & aubergine burger. This dish combines pulled chipotle jackfruit, herb-crusted aubergine, lime coriander slaw and a vegan ‘rockstar bun’ served with vegan panisses and a garden slaw.
Each of these dishes can be complemented with one of the freshly made options from The Flatbread Society. Made in-house daily using their secret recipe that is made to order and cooked fresh, each is topped with carefully selected ingredients that they say create ‘sensational flatbread flavour combinations’.
Options include spicy lamb which layers atop the freshly baked bread, spiced lamb shoulder, fermented chilli sauce, mint yogurt, pickled shallots and spring onion or the rich and creamy nduja (spicy Spanish sausage) with soft burrata. Adding further to the flavour combinations, these are served with one of their flatbread dips, from the signature black garlic aioli or the ‘yum yum’ – (an Asian sauce with a sweet, tangy & spicy flavour).
One of the largest outdoor dining spaces in East London, Barge East has pinned itself as its very own canal-side destination, truly marking its spot having travelled a challenging 90-mile journey across the North Sea from Holland. At home in Hackney, Barge East is passionate about supporting its local community and pride itself on giving back.
This included providing lunches to the incredible front-line NHS teams at Homerton, assembling food boxes for Hackney Wick residents, donating to Bow Foodbank and offering free school meals for children and families in need during half terms and keeping the river and surrounding areas free from litter.