When you see Tom Pellereau, Alan Sugar’s former apprentice, sitting outside sipping a coffee, his tandem leant against a wall, plotting his onward journey on a sloped iPad, you know things are changing on the pavement by the A11.
Dane’s Yard is part of ‘major regeneration project’ Strand East on the south side of that noxious thoroughfare. Beneath a 40m-high installation that looks like an Olympic Torch, the smartly industrial-look bar-restaurant sits on the River Lea at the end of the temporary footbridge that funnels supporters from West Ham into the Olympic Park.
The contrast with the all-day fry and Thai supper cafés that were the fashion in this part of London couldn’t be greater. The main courses are a bit by-the-numbers (pork belly, gnocchi, burger, steak, sea bass), but there are interesting touches – fish cakes come with sorrel cream, the chicken breast with orange and pomegranate quinoa – and many of the starters and small plates are intriguing.
Carefully presented on a wood- block, tiny but delicious parmesan and black pepper shortbreads with rather gentle creamed goat’s cheese, finished off with parsley and jewel-like red onion, were perhaps too dainty, looking and proportioned like petits fours.
Things got more substantial with the heritage beetroot salad, properly earthy but with chewy radish parings and, again, goat’s cheese lacking kick. The fried squid, also a bit chewy, was saved by peppy red chillies, and both eel with horseradish crème fraîche on toast and sea bass with samphire were flavoursome and well prepared, notwithstanding the addition to the latter of needless clams. A rather plain slice of banana and coconut cheesecake – the only ‘caramelised’ part of which was the additional banana – was entirely overshadowed by a surprisingly delicate little raspberry bread and butter pudding, with oodles of custard.
Service can sometimes be shaky – in the case of one nervous young man, literally – but is enthusiastic. And Dane’s Yard shows good intentions with a children’s menu and a greatest hits cocktail list, none of them brutally priced.