So it was Mrs C’s birthday recently, and I found myself tasked with the job of choosing and booking a suitably stylish restaurant in which to celebrate. Following a frenzied bout of research (and the nod from a few pals in the know) I settled on BOX-E — Tessa and Elliot Lidstone’s small but perfectly formed restaurant in Cargo 1, Wapping Wharf.
BOX-E is, to its dedicated owners, a labour of love, and what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in substance. Chairs and tables for 14 diners line the terrace and restaurant floor, with a separate section they’ve called the ‘kitchen table’ where you can sit and watch Elliot hard at work. It all makes for a wonderfully intimate and refreshingly different dining experience.
We tucked into the taster menu and chose the optional wine flight — special occasion ‘n’ all. The extra money is well worth spending, as the enjoyment of watching Elliot preparing the food is matched only by the joy of hearing Tessa share her knowledge and insight on the accompanying wines. Then, when you realise those platters on the worktop are for you… magic!
“There are easier ways to make a living than being a chef, but there’s no point telling that to a chef. If you can come out smiling after 13 or so hours in front of a stove, day in, day out, then you obviously love your craft. Elliott’s one of them.” Tessa Lidstone
Tessa and Elliot take pride in sourcing their ingredients from the local area, and proactively support other Cargo dwellers in the recipes they work with. Delicate dishes such as smoked trout, heritage beetroot and buttermilk or onglet with Moroccan spiced chickpeas and yoghurt give a flavour of what to expect, and the seasonal wine list takes in Venice, the Loire Valley and the fertile slopes of Mount Etna.
The best thing about dinner at BOX-E is undoubtedly the food and wine, but the rare opportunity to chat with the chef in situ makes this a truly special dining experience. Whilst it may not be fair on Elliot to natter away to him while he’s concentrating, he makes a point of talking you through the dishes on the menu and sharing his pride for the produce on the plate.
For this reason, BOX-E’s kitchen table experience is the way to go.
For more details on BOX-E’s culinary offerings, check out their website here. For more Cargo-related reviews from @cjcallaghan, check out his Wapping Wharf and WokyKo write-ups.