Hackney riverside, or the 'Hackney Riviera' as it's become lovingly referred is really coming into its own. The Canalside district sits right on the River Lee canal, and although it has the feeling of a tranquil paradise far removed from the London hustle, it is in fact located just a short stroll from Hackney Wick.
The buildings of Canalside form part of the 'Here East' development within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park site, occupying the former site of the Olympics press and broadcast center. If you haven't visited the area since the Games in 2012, you'll be pleased to see that the intended vision of regenerating and reclaiming the area with lush greenery and wild flowers has continued to thrive. The peace of moored river boats and the only traffic being cyclists or a passing canal boat really enhance that feeling of spending a lazy day by the water.
I was meeting friend for brunch on Sunday around 11.30am, and walking along East Bay Lane I was struck by how bustling the development was, with joggers and dog walkers passing by those who chose to spend their mornings sitting on the deckchairs outside the neighbouring Breakfast Club outpost, and a plant based cafe offering acai bowls and fresh cold pressed juices.
Shane's on Canalside fits in perfectly with the surroundings, capturing the essence of foraged wilderness, with plants lining the walls and hanging from the beams in the light modern space. The restaurant’s decor, which features simple table arrangements, natural wood furnishings and lots of greenery, reflect founder Shane Harrison’s love of nature and unfussy approach to food. The bar area is blues and oranges with metal features, and the tables are made of thick wood. Detailed and interesting glassware and carafes sit alongside unique side plates which showcase the Harrison's character as much as the excellent music playlist he curated which ranges from Nina Simone to the lounge and nujazz sounds of Club des Belugas.
Having grown up in northern New Zealand surrounded by farmland, Shane's deep-rooted respect for nature and cooking has helped him to make a name for himself as a talented chef with a passion for honest and reasonably priced food served in a lively and fuss-free environment. Following the success of his first restaurant Shane's On Chatsworth, he opened this Canalside location in 2016 as a second, larger space.
Harrison’s love of nature is reflected in his seasonal menu, which features ingredients sourced from ethical suppliers or foraged nearby from the Hackney Marshes. And whilst his New Zealand roots can be seen in the emphasis on wild, natural produce, the ever-changing menu has a distinctive British sensibility too.
Although seemingly concise at first glance, it was rather tricky to narrow down our choices from the brunch menu, as in testament to a well thought-through menu, each of the items jumped out in some way. A most obvious easy choice however was the Sunday Roast (£12.50), with the option of English Lamb, Venison, Rare roast beef and Organic Chicken to choose from. Each come wih duck fat roast potatoes, carrots, parsnip, a rich flavourful dark green kale, and of course gravy. We opted for the lamb in the end, as if anybody knows how lamb should be perfected it's a New Zealander - and we weren't disappointed.
The brunch menu continues with sourdough, topped with blue cheese poached eggs, bacon and kale (£7.50) which was just heavenly. I'd never considered mixing blue cheese in with a hollandaise sauce before, but it's such an obviously brilliant idea. High quality toasted bread crisped to perfection becomes increasingly saturated with this miracle sauce as your devour this dish, and somehow makes the entire experience even more satisfying. I really cannot fault this dish, and the bacon and kale work so well together to cut through the strong flavours and balance the eggs perfectly.
Alongside these dishes we had the Quinoa Salad (£8) which can optionally be served with a poached egg (£9). I was drawn to the salad because of the sheer range of ingredients listed on the menu, boasting the inclusion of broccoli, goats cheese, rocket, oxeye (daisy), beetroot, wild garlic, fennel, roast squash, parsnip and pickled courgette. It's exactly the kind of salad I would make myself if access to fresh and interesting ingredients were no object. It was crunchy in all the right places, with the fennel giving some delicious bite, and the goats curd working in perfect harmony with the parsnip crisps sprinkled on top.
The service throughout was just right - never over zealous but always in eyeline, our Canadian waiter was able to help with a number of questions we had about the menu. When he offered us the dessert menu to peruse alongside our cappucinos it was hard to resist - Chocolate fondant, lemon curd and strawberry (£5) immediately jumped out to me. Cutting into it I was very pleasantly surprised to find it filled with warm and dark chocolate ganache the likes of which I can't recall. Rich and decadent, the dish somehow manages to be reminiscent of asoufflé in it's lightness.
My dining companion had the English classic Apple Crumble with ice cream (£5) which came in a sensibly sized portion which allowed it to be enjoyed without dominating the meal. Crisp honey rolled oats in perfect synergy with a rich vanilla pod filled ice cream. Also on offer was a lemon posset served with rhubarb and shortbread (£5) which we very nearly added on, but resisted at the last minute on the grounds of common decency!
Feeling rather sensitive on this particularly Sunday, I wasn't in a moodto explore anuthing, but as you would expect, several New Zealand stars feature on the wine list, as does a sparkling wine from West Sussex. Pimms can be ordered by the glass (£5.50) or jug (£18) as can an Italian favourite of mine, the Aparol Spritz (£7) and Bloody Mary (£6). There were also a number of menu items which I am tempted to come back to try at some point including a Roast butternut squash pancake with goats cheese and bay butter (£7) and Black pudding potato cake, bacon, poached egg, salad and hollandaise (£7.95) would make an immensely satisfying breakfast I'm sure.
Diners impressed with Harrison’s meat-based dished can pick up a trick or two by signing up to his wild butchery classes. For £85, Shane will take you through knife skills and butchery techniques, using seasonal fresh wild meats such as pheasant, deer, pigeon and rabbit, learning about the different cuts and preparations, and offer you plenty of recipe ideas. Sessions finish with a cooking demonstration and game feast, including wine, where you’ll get to taste the meats you’ve prepared.
Find out more about the Shane's Canalside here: http://www.shanesoncanalside.com