If you walked past Palmers restaurant on Roman Road, you might not make a point to dine there, not least because it’s often almost-empty.
But that would be your loss.
Unlike most new restaurants in East London, Palmers is better than it looks, not the other way round.
This place is decidedly substance over style. Located on the ground floor of a block of new-build flats in Globe Town, it could be mistaken for the dining room of a cheap hotel – cavernous and purely functional.
Large photographs of illuminated produce don’t do the place justice. A close-up of a jar of pickled onions look like a science experiment in preserving eyeballs; another of octopus tentacles illuminated red are actually quite frightening.
Run by a Czech father-and-son team, Palmers serves up modern British cuisine with a French twist – a suitably diverse combination for a neighbourhood restaurant in E2.
The ‘rustic’ food zeitgeist has led too many restaurants to think they can get away with anything as long as it’s served on a board. Thankfully, Palmers hasn’t caught on.
Nothing here is try-hard. Artfully-arranged seared scallops and chorizo with Jerusalem artichoke purée (pictured), and a difficult-to-master Bouillabaise are downright classy dishes, but big enough to be good value – and not a cheeseburger in sight.
Just out of reach of passersby buzzing below on the towpath, Palmers sits at street level near an intersection of the Regent’s Canal constantly traversed by weekend food explorers. In the search for a perfect Sunday roast, too many miss a trick by skipping Palmers out.
The Sunday feasts are a neighbourhood staple, filling the place at around £12 a head, and with portions far more generous than the sceney Empress across Victoria Park.
On a recent visit, a neighbouring diner was so enthusiastic about the beef she invited herself into our conversation to recommend it. She has it every Sunday without fail, apparently.
Beef being sold out, we sprung for the pork belly – a huge slab of the stuff with plenty of crackling and perfectly crunchy roast potatoes, topped with a tart cranberry sauce that should have been apple, but that’s by the by.
A neighbourhood secret kept too long, surely.
238 Roman Road, E2 0RY