Westferry Circus is that bit of the Docklands on the riverfront just west of Canary Wharf. Now, the site that used to be a branch of Jamie’s wine bar has been turned into this ‘liquor bar and bistro’, ‘inspired by the neighbourhood restaurants of New York’s Manhattan’. The can-do, smiling service might be evocative of Manhattan, but the brief menu is a very loose interpretation.
Our ‘clam chowder’ was a good dish, but really a seafood soup, not a New England chowder, let alone the tomato-rich Manhattan version. This soup contained peas and smoked haddock, and wasn’t as dense as the real thing. There weren’t too many clams, but at least they didn’t come from a tin, as they do in inferior versions. Lobster BLT is the kind of thing you find in smart diners in the Big Apple, and our version would have been good if only the burger bun it was served in hadn’t tasted as if it had been slightly stale before toasting. A starter of two crab cakes (£7) were packed with crab meat, but were the size of scallops.
The best dish was the New York Strip – an American cut, but in this case made from 28-day dry-aged beef which was very tender and flavoursome, and cooked medium rare as requested. Twenty-four pounds is a lot to pay for a steak and some shoestring fries, but we couldn’t fault the quality of the meat or the timing of the grill chef.
Not many people were taking advantage of the list of classic cocktails (all £7) on our visit, and the wine service needs a lot more training, even one month after opening – we ordered a glass of pinot noir, and our waitress promptly produced a white wine. But Lower East is redeemed by being in a lovely riverside spot, which is perfect when the weather’s good.