New York comes to Docklands

Lower East Liquor Bar<br /><strong>28 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR<br />Tel: 020 7536 2862 <br />FOOD<br />SERVICE<br />ATMOSPHERE<br /></strong>Cost in restaurant per person without wine: &pound;25<br /><br />THE Docklands&rsquo; great trump card, when it comes to leisure and lifestyle, is the river. Residents have access to the best views in town, immaculate riverside running paths and access to water transport (how jolly).&nbsp; Now they can add the wharf at Westferry Circus to their list of enviable amenities &ndash; it is filling up with restaurants and boasts some of the best views in London.<br /><br />Most of the prime river sites on the dock have been have been bagged by chains: Prezzo, Gaucho, Zizzi. But thankfully, the East Side Liquor Bar and Bistro, a well-meaning restaurant if ever there was one, has snagged a spot and it&rsquo;s just the thing for a bit of wharfside relaxation.<br /><br />First, the restaurant embraces its view in a way that many, foolishly, do not. Indoors, there&rsquo;s a semicircular bar (with place settings) facing outwards and the tables are arranged so that there are no bum seats. It was sunny when we went so we sat outside, under blue sky and puffy clouds, with a cheery scene of boats, shimmering water, the odd builder and jogger and the pleasing view of the opposite bank. There&rsquo;s a little area of cushions in front of the tables and closer to the river railing: in the summer, this would be the place &ndash; almost beach-party like &ndash; to have a jug of Pimms.<br /><br />As the name implies, this is a restaurant in the New York diner vein. It has stripey banquette seating, glass walls and gleaming (slightly scruffy) dark wood chairs and tables. It&rsquo;s lacking in personality for a diner, but the friendly, efficient staff and the menu help it towards its goal.<br /><br />So it is hearty American food with a twist. We had crab cakes that looked like big coins, served with slivers of pickled cucumber and mayo &ndash; yummy. Clam chowder was posher and healthier than any version I&rsquo;ve tried before &ndash; a thin broth with lots of actual clams in it, diced unpeeled potatoes, peas, and &ndash; rather delightfully &ndash; pea shoots. <br /><br />We had to try the yellowfin burger with wasabe and ginger, at a reasonable &pound;12. Served on sweet brioche, and given the pungent Japanese flavours, the tuna itself was tasteless, merely a textured flavour sponge. The idea was nice, though, and if you fancy something between a bun, with excellent thin chips, you could do worse, mainly because you don&rsquo;t feel too full afterwards. That said, to serve straight old chips with a ginger and wasabe tuna burger is a strange thing to do. Tempura vegetables or root veg chips would have been better. <br /><br />Macaroni and cheese with pecorino was another comforting dish &ndash; again, a great idea, but a little disappointing in practice. It was a bit bland, a bit overcooked, but in its cute rectangular dish, with its crusty golden top, we couldn&rsquo;t stop forking it in.<br /><br />For dessert, we ignored cheesecake and creme brulee and plumped for a salt caramel sundae: a large glass jammed with raspberries, strawberries, glace cherries, a strange chocolate sludge, three types of ice cream&hellip;and a little bit of vaguely salted caramel. But you know what? We ate it all because it was fun, different, and &ndash; in trying so hard to please &ndash; hard not to love.<br /><br />There was one surprising disaster I must warn you of: the prawn and avocado &ldquo;salad&rdquo;. This was a glass full of tiny prawns drenched in some despicable sauce that was probably Marie Rose but tasted of old orange juice and socks. The avocado was buried under the pile but we couldn&rsquo;t (didn&rsquo;t want to) get there. A sad waste of salad potential. <br /><br /><strong>IN A NUTSHELL</strong>&nbsp;<br />Friendly all-day American-style diner right on the Thames &ndash; twists on the classics include a yellowtail burger, clam chowder with pea shoots and cherry creme brulee. Steer clear of the prawn salad and you&rsquo;ll be golden.