Empress of India E14
REVIEWS, January 3, 2007
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
The Empress, 130 Lauriston Rd, London, E9 7LH

What a splendid ‘throwback’ name for an Indian restaurant! But sadly it isn’t. Indian, that is. This East End boozer-conversion – having retained the name by which the site has long been known – is a thoroughly British gastropub.

And so we enter a second terminological minefield, as Gordon Ramsay has recently announced that the gastropubs he is to open later this year are not to be so described, but will in fact simply be ‘pubs’. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era? There have, however, so far as we know, been no similarly pompous pronouncements by the backers of the Empress. But what do they know? Unlike Gordon – a novice in the area – they already have the benefit of actually running three successful gastropubs: Shoreditch’s Well, the much-fêted Gun in Docklands, and the well-rated White Swan, off Fleet Street.

The Empress is in the heart of a villagey little area (complete with an imposing church) to which the middle classes of Victoria Park repair when the want to go out without going Up West. Given this charming setting, the interior of their new gaff struck us as being rather cold. The space is mainly taken up with restaurant-style tables, and there are few sound-absorbent surfaces. Features are few, apart from some peculiar lampshades and a curious mural which just looks out of place, so the eye is mainly drawn to the long bar, which leads straight into a large open kitchen.

The food is pretty straightforward, solid and consistent. It’s also – given the ‘restaurant’ prices – arguably somewhat short of the inspiration front. The staff are certainly welcoming, though, and there’s a decent wine list. If we lived down this way, we suspect we’d pay our respects to the old Empress from time to time.

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