I dined in Bethnal Green after a boozy night out at the start of this year. Sorry, I should say “I ‘dined’…”. It was a fried chicken shop, with retina-burning strip lighting. I was served by scary Stefan, who seemed angry at me – and at life – for no specific reason and I’m pretty sure he spat on my chicken, which tasted like a stale sink cloth. Still ate it.
To label the majority of my Bethnal Green dining experiences thus far, I’d have to use a pretty wack-job word. ‘Sketchy’? ‘Challenging’? And the rest. So when Tom told me that the surprise review he’d planned for us at the place he’d wanted to eat at for ages …was in Bethnal Green, I began rummaging in my handbag for a stomach-lining antacid in preparation.
Biking down Cambridge Heath Road, I was nervous. Every neon sign-filled shop front which approached us, trying to sell me Stefan’s special spit-chicken made me shudder. Thankfully we soon ducked down a dinky little side street called Paradise Row and all my polystyrene-packaged poultry nightmares melted away.
This cobbled little street offers a row of Georgian townhouses on one side and a little park on the other. With the occasional wheel-less bike frame here or a beer can in a bush there, but that’s what adds the charm, right? Reaching the end of this darling little street, we found a row of restaurants which each squeeze themselves neatly into the railway bridge arches like a pony in a dog kennel.
We reached the front of Resident of Paradise Row, where we’d be filling our faces that evening. I know this sounds a bit pretentious, but I liked this place immediately based on a fairly leftfield exterior detail. Their font. I’m a sucker for a font and boy have they fonted the hell out of their restaurant sign. If you like fonts, let me tell you, theirs is sexual. If you don’t give a squat about fonts and you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll move on.
Walking into Resident of Paradise Row was a bit like going home. The whole place felt welcoming and friendly and, according to the owner Daniel, that’s exactly what he’s going for. We know this because he pulled a chair up to join our table, handed us each a strong drink and proceeded to chat away and take a genuine interest in us, like we’d known each other for ages. We’d been here for five minutes and already we had a new mate.
Resident is all about family, friends and sharing. Their menus offer giant roast platters, to enable you to rock up with all your friends or siblings, order one massive board of food and get involved in eating and sharing the same meal. I liked the sound of this – maybe if my meal matched Tom’s, he wouldn’t steal the food off my fork whilst it was en route to my mouth. The food is definitely what these lot do best and they use awesome quality ingredients which make their best even better. They even smoke their own meat and fish in a miniature little smoke shed, for crying out loud. Good Friday, these guys are cool.
We made our way through the Gloucester old spot pork belly which was perfect, as well as the black Angus sirloin which also tickled us in our happy places. We also had the home-smoked loch Duart salmon and the home-smoked mackerel, which gave us the chance to try these guys for their smoking techniques and let me tell you, they smoked their way into our hearts. Want your wine pairing with your food? No sweat, they’re all over it. The whole team at Resident really care about delivering awesome food and an awesome evening and you know what? They succeed. On every level. I felt cared for, supported and well-fed. They’re like the Samaritans of the culinary world, this lot.
We had some ridiculously tasty dishes at Resident, all whilst soaking up the lively atmosphere, chugging back ‘paired wines’, chowing down on smoked fish and perving over their font. It’s the dream. Take your mates, take your Mum, take yourself and no one else if you have to, because I guarantee you either way, you’ll walk out of there with a well-filled stomach and a load of new friends in the Resident of Paradise Row crowd.