Where Lea Bridge Road meets the River Lea is The Princess of Wales pub, like the proud gatekeeper of Hackney, welcoming in commuters, travellers and lorries from Leyton, Walthamstow and beyond.
A few years ago The Princess got a makeover and on a dark autumn evening the pub is a warm and welcome respite from the frantic traffic of the nearby road.
At the heart of the pub is a stove fire (a rarity in London’s boozers) and the interior is light and warm – almost nautical, befitting its canal side situation. We sat in the dining area, which was snug like a living room, all mismatched retro furnishings and dark aubergine walls. There is a terrace facing the canal and picnic tables out by the towpath, making it an ideal summer watering hole.
The wine menu offered an impressive selection, including a Dorset cuvée and house Viognier. There were ales and Aspall cider on tap, being enjoyed by a number of punters propping up the bar.
For starters was a generous board of charcuterie, which came with fresh leaves and strips of sweet grilled peppers. The large prawns that came with my partner’s calamari were juicy and well-seasoned.
For mains he had sirloin steak medium rare, which came on a wooden chopping board atop a pile of dressed leaf salad and triple dipped chips. It was excellent: the steak succulent and pink, and the chips alone were worth the visit – with skins on, crunchy and piping hot. The quail, if a little overcooked, was beautifully presented and came with a delicious butternut squash puree. We managed to secure the last slice of pecan pie, which was sweet and nutty – just as it should be.
This pub does the pub grub options well – our neighbouring table was tucking in to good-looking fish and chips; the steak is worth returning for, not to mention the triple dipped chips, which are some of the best in Clapton at least.
It’s a nice, mixed crowd at Princess of Wales, lacking the pomp of some other East London gastro pubs and with the advantage few others have of being tucked away by the canal.
The Princess of Wales, 146 Lea Bridge Road, E5 9RB/ 20 November, 2014