Shane’s On Canalside is one of those restaurants that just oozes East London cool, a sort of thrumming undercurrent of pure trendy that instantly makes me feel partly out of place yet also like I’ve finally made it. When my sister landed her dream medical training post, it was only natural that a dinner would ensue as a celebration, and since she lives in the equally cool East Village, it made sense that our culinary treat would also be Stratford based. A short 15 minute walk from her flat alongside the scenic canal I didn’t even know was there, and we had arrived.
All industrial grey, twinkling fairy lights and squashed in seating, Shane’s On Canalside was an unusual hodgepodge of belongings wedged into a fairly roomy restaurant; the open kitchen emitting glorious smells that was making my tummy gurgle in appreciation. Interestingly, we happened to be visiting on ‘hygge night’ in celebration of a Nordic artist whose work was being displayed in the restaurant as if it were a gallery. Our kindly waiter informed us the pieces were available to buy from £500 and the artist was about if we wanted to ask any questions.
As a nod to the restaurant’s dual purpose that evening, the menu was also slightly adjusted to reflect Swedish-style specialties, so it wasn’t the menu I had been pouring over online all day. However the restaurant was maintaining its usual Thursday steak night, so that was still a feature.
We were sat on a rectangular table, four of us really rather squashed onto a bench style seat, with three places set opposite us with dining chairs. As a couple of people ordered soft drinks, we also got two bottles of white wine for the alcohol drinkers among us. The wine was drier than I perhaps would have ordered, with a more pungent flavour, however it was still rather refreshing and went down a treat after a long day at work and the pre-meal Prosecco Jess had already provided at her flat.
To start, we decided to go tapas style, and share a few small plates among all of us. Granted, the plates were very small portions indeed so you could only have a couple of bites each, if that, but at least it ensured that you were still hungry for your main course. My pick for starters was the venison stew with potato dumplings, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. The meat was literally falling apart it was so tender, yet the sauce of the stew was rich and vibrant, enhancing the game flavour of the meat. The potato dumplings were small squishes of tastiness that soaked up the sauce a dream. The salt pork cheek we ordered was also impossibly tender with quite a steak like taste that I rather enjoyed. I skipped the goat’s cheese as I’m really not a lover, however I did spear a forkful of the ham hock croquettes, which were soft and cheesy, although I couldn’t hugely taste the ham. All the plates were presented very prettily, so definitely good for the Instagrammers.
We polished those off pretty quickly to get to the main course. I had decided to forgo Thursday’s steak speciality and instead go for something not usually featured on local menus; rabbit. You know the meat quality is good when the waiter warns you that bullet remains may still be in your food, however it didn’t deter me in the slightest from getting stuck in. My rabbit didn’t come up as I expected; it was more in the style of a terrine of flaked meat chunks rather that say a breast of rabbit meat, however it had that typical game flavour and was well, if simply, cooked. The carrot puree it was served with was deliciously sweet and the wine based sauce was great for lapping up the meat and really enriching the flavour. My main meal also came with a side dish of new potatoes and these were probably some of the best new potatoes I have ever experienced. I think they were roasted with some herb mixture or garlic, but they were light and fluffy on the inside with a nice, wrinkly crunch on the outside. I did get sneered at for asking for tomato sauce to have with them, but I don’t care. All food connoisseurs have their guilty pleasure.
Dessert, to me, seemed like a challenge when I spotted something that had been labelled ‘the best cake in the world’. Really? Was it really? I just had to find out. An added plus point was that this was one of the speciality Nordic dishes of the evening, so something a bit different which I always like, even if I couldn’t pronounce the name of the dish. Although I wouldn’t call it a cake, it was certainly a pretty amazing dessert. The base was a dense almond crumb, packed together to form a hard square. On top of these was a generous swash of sweet and sugary meringue, topped with shards of flaked and toasted almonds. In addition, it was served with a satisfying splodge of thick custard that had a lovely vanilla tone and yellow colour. A thoroughly lovely dessert.
A few members of the group paid less due to not drinking alcohol, however the majority of us paid around £33 each, so not too extortionate in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I think Stratford can be a bit more affordable then central London, yet still have some great hotspots. The waiter was very informative and friendly, and they even brought us over two card machines when we were paying for extra efficiency and time-saving. The atmosphere was chatty yet relaxed and the food was classy yet not pretentious, despite the weird and wonderful menu items. It made a very suitable venue for a celebratory night out.