Drake and Morgan have opened a new bar in West India Quay. Despite a somewhat naff name, these guys certainly know how to run a bar, so we sent Jack down to see what the latest is like…
Young professionals and unprofessionals cultivating an Epicurean bent. Business casual socials and City work parties with a generous bar tab (woo!) Older professionals who know enough about wine to know where to drink. Tourists and visitors who wandered across the bridge and away from the Ivory Towers. ‘Parent dates’ – it’s a good place to take your Dad (confirmed). Cocktail curious people on a reasonable budget. You and bae.
In a Word
It’s dripping on the Sipping Room
*to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel* Drake and Morgan my old friend. I’ve come to eat with you again…
Today the weather resembles a depressive episode. As I cross the bridge over to West India Quay from Canary Wharf, I see spy D&M signage on brown brick through the gloom. Out front are small groups of men in their mid 30s with beers perched under the umbrellas avoiding The Sadness Of The Sky.
At the entrance stand two wait staff dressed like tennis coaches in white shirts and exercise shorts, completely at odds with the everything and everyone.
Down the stairwell I go, past a table that is being set for a mixology class. It is busier today than I would have thought for a Saturday in Canary Wharf, though downstairs where I end up, there are two quiet older couples and a young looking guy having dinner with his middle aged Dad. This will change drastically at about 1830 when the place is invaded by hip people and ‘gets heaving’.
The Sipping Room AKA ‘the restaurant formerly known as The Bothy’, is indeed a room in which you can sip – nay, you are encouraged to sip! D&M are pretty good at arranging such sipping opportunities, which means plenty of choice for the likes of you and I. Myself I’m partial to a beer (of which they have a reasonable and international selection of 10, at my last count).
TSR’s name change makes sense, the old name was somewhat at odds with the surroundings. A bothy is a type of shelter, usually located out in the arse end of nowhere, bonus points for un strategic locations such as halfway up a mountain, or as far away from civilisation as you can get. You’re unlikely to get tasty beverages in a bothy, but inside a ‘Sipping Room’? The possibilities are endless.
If you’re not yet familiar with Drake and Morgan, they’ve made a name for themselves by creating fantastical and eccentric idiosyncratic places, then filling them up with a combination of Modern European cuisine, pub grub and a comprehensive drinks menu – all wrapped up in a slick experience characterised by waistcoat wearing waitstaff, and plants and ornamentation stuffed into little alcoves. They recently opened The Pagination, just across the bridge in Canary Wharf.
Here the approach is no different, but like each of the restaurants, the decor has its own theme and is quite distinct from the others. ‘Factory chic’, perhaps – heavy industrial brick walls, cast iron columns and flag stone flooring. This is combined with D&M’s signature eccentric decor; soft furnishings, soft lighting and genre-unidentifiable pseudo-pop music thumping away in the background (but not at such a volume that you can’t chat…).
TSR’s signature appears to be the chairs – some of them have animal furs draped over them, Viking style. We don’t know if these are real furs or not but they’re bloody comfortable. Other chairs have towels on them, a feature that turns out to be useful when the service entrance is open and the draft is running through the ground floor area (an oversight?)
You’ll find TSR in West India Quay, an area now well established as a destination for food and drink (mainly for the legion of City Boys and Girls working in the area). It’s open 7 days a week, implying that it caters for a weekend clientele, perhaps less suited and booted.
Asides from the conventional dining or drinking experience, The Sipping Room offer mixology classes and tag treasure hunts (with said tags being redeemable for drinks at the bar – genius). It’s located on the waterfront but doesn’t really have river views due to the fact that the river is below your eyeline. As you’d expect, there are some stunning views of the ivory tower scenery. You may also see some boats parked there, but you will never see one sail by you.
In terms of decor, the restaurant itself lives inside a 11,522 square-foot Grade I listed warehouse, which is spread over two floors. Lower ground seats 200. They describe themselves as an ‘escape from the everyday’, an apt description once you’ve stepped inside, the scenery largely at odds with its cyberpunk surroundings and the many other bars and restaurants that surround it.
There’s also an outdoor terrace, referred to by the restaurant’s copywriter as ‘the perfect al-fresco respite throughout the seasons.’ I’d not go that far, but I would say but it has its own bar(!)
D&M’s nearly all encompassing attention to detail includes things such as sunglasses and sun cream on outdoor tables, plus blankets for when it’s cold. I’d suggest you try using them all simultaneously to confuse friends and nearby onlookers. Life is short, after all.
The Food and Drink
I suppose the approach is ‘not too adventurous’, tending towards the now ever-present ‘Modern European Cuisine’. Still, within this remit, there’s a lot of choice (D&M are big on choice). Various set menus, a breakfast menu, Sunday lunch and even some smoothies and juices. Said juices are not available in the evening, so you only get to ‘be healthy’ in the day :3
Compared with the competition, D&M’s food prices are still reasonable. As with every other Drake and Morgan there’s a menu of daily specials attached to the main menu – which means you get the consistency of the main menu plus a bit of variety. And, unlike much of the competition, here you may see someone in chef’s whites wearing a radio earpiece wandering around. I can assume this is the head chef, and not one of the many variations on clothing that wait staff wear.
Asides from the massive wine list, there’s the cocktail menu, that offers over 30 combinations of alcohol and mixer to suit a variety of tastes, and the wine menu, which is similarly extensive (and a little expensive at points). They have two chilled red wines, which is an accomplishment considering most places have zero chilled red wines on the menu.
Prawn Lollipops £6.95
Sweet chilli & soy. Do not try, devoured by plus one before I can get to it, usually a good sign.
Scotch Egg £5.95
Chorizo & smoked paprika mayonnaise. I’m not exactly a Scotch Egg connoisseur but this is quite possibly the greatest Scotch Egg I’ve ever come across – it’s something to do with smoked paprika and chorizo mayo, which is obscenely rich, creamy and the perfect amount of smoky. The yolk is a tiny, glowing orange sun. I could eat 4 of these as a main and be perfectly happy with the amount of choice I’d decided to give myself.
Grilled Salmon £12.95
Pecan crunch & lemon. The salmon is predictably delicious but no more exciting than any other salmon you’ve done on the grill. I think the pecan crunch has some potential, but you can’t really taste it as there’s not enough, and the salmon – the sauce is quite moorish – I expected saffron for some reason but get something closer to butter.
Rib-Eye Steak (10oz) £19.95
They suggest medium rare, so I go with that. To me, it’s a little more done and tough than I’d expect a medium rare to be. Nevertheless, it is juicy and firm with some good marbling. I rarely eat steak, so when I get one I enjoy it – as I do with this. Nevertheless, not quite comparable against the steakhouse competition.
Cowboy Fries £4.50
Honey, chilli & garlic. Not as overly sweet or spicy as you may think (it’s somewhat like a BBQ sauce minus the molasses flavours). Unfortunately, the chip texture reminds me of the watery microwave crinkle cut chips you used to get in Sainsburys (anyone remember those?). On the flip side, they are drenched in the sauce, so if you like the sauce you can just focus on that and try to ignore the texture.
Roman Fries £4.50
Parmesan, truffle & rosemary. These are FUCKING DELICIOUS but the topping tends to stick at the top and doesn’t filter down to the bottom. The result of this, basically, are regular chips with a very thin phenomenal cheese and rosemary topping. Bit of a failure here is that very top layer sets the bar up in the sky and then everything underneath is dry and sad in comparison.
Hot Smoked Salmon Salad £11.95
Watercress, poached egg, garlic croutons & lemon dressing. The garlic croutons are wet, anaemic and lack garlic taste, the salmon is warm and delicious, the lemon dressing is nowhere to be tasted and the watercress has absorbed all of the salmon flavours, consequentially being delicious. There is also a very generous portion of fish. All in all, pretty healthy, I should probably eat this stuff more often.
I’ve been to quite a few of these now and I’m sad/happy to say that it’s exactly what I expected. The same extensive wine menu, ‘reliable’ food offerings and left field interior design that defines a D&M restaurant. Consistent, a word I must have used many times with them.
When I go to a Drake and Morgan, I always feel like this is what The Slug and Lettuce or All Bar One could be. D&M fill the niche for ‘wine bar with good food’ and considering how rapidly they’re expanding, I’ll not be surprised if they’re not a massive chain within the next 5-10 years.
The question, I suppose, will be if they can retain the quality and underlying silliness that keeps people coming back to them. Let’s hope, let’s see…
16 Hertsmere Road, West India Quay, London, E14 4AX