09 February 2008

Down to the Waterline

To the opening of the Waterhouse, Arthur's new restaurant in Hoxton. I had been running a training course all day, and was already footsore before I left Quorum Training's premises, and I had a couple of hours before I was supposed to be there anyway (Arthur had reserved a table for me, Hilary and Mel at 8). I started out for the office, to get another hour of billable time down, but there was nothing from Euston on the Victoria Line so eventually I crossed over to the neighbouring Northern Line platform. My plan was to head for the river and then take the District or Circle Line to St James's Park: but the train went to Old Street, the nearest tube station to the Waterhouse, so I alighted there. (Nice word, "alighted".)

The directions I'd seen somewhere had told me that it would take 25 minutes to walk, and of course I had discounted that estimate heavily to take into account my fitness levels. Big mistake, as however fit I might be it counts for little after a day on my feet lecturing. Plus, the route took me through some pretty mean streets: Hoxton might be up and coming, but that doesn't go for the surrounding neighbourhoods. Crossing Shoreditch Park in the pitch dark was probably on the stupid side of reckless, but I made it.

The restaurant is in a new residential development, which reassuringly has its own mini police station too (less reassuringly, all that could be seen through the window to suggest that it was in use was an open ring binder on the counter). An illuminated sign in the shape of a drop of water suggested where the front door might be, and as I found it Arthur appeared waving to me from inside. I was about an hour ahead of schedule - a rare experience for me.

He was showing some other guests - only a handful were present at this stage - the terrace, overlooking the inky-black Regent's Canal. Apart from occasional cyclists flashing past on the towpath opposite, it was pitch dark: this is a part of town full of warehouses and other large non-residential buildings, although it is quickly changing.

Like Acorn House this is a sustainable restaurant, though they are taking the concept a little further. Plantpots on the terrace were filled with compost made from waste food from Acorn House (greener still not to waste food, I thought, but there will inevitably be peelings and things, and people being what they are there will also be left-overs). They housed a couple of wormeries, and rhubarb was growing in another - just about enough, I ventured, for a couple of crumbles. I didn't try to explore the possible Stackridge connection. In due course a barge will be moored alongside the restaurant, one of the trainee chefs will live on it and it will be used to grow more produce.

The restaurant is powered by solar and hydroelectric energy. Air conditioning is via heat exchangers in the canal. It's not well served by bus or tube (as I found) but there's some scheme to run taxis on biodiesel made from the cooking oil they use. Surely it will need more than that to get a taxi further than about the end of the street?

Hilary and Mel arrived about an hour after me, and we had a very enjoyable meal with a glass of wine included - all for the princely sum of £20 a head. Not bad for four courses (plus a little cup, a capuccino cup perhaps, of borsch to start with).

No comments: