In 2006, when still fresh in London and seeking a new running route, I pored over the A to Z map and spotted a thin blue line that traced its way through Islington. It appeared to signify water. What could this be?
Five years later, Regent’s Canal remains one of my favourite places to run in the world. Built over 20 years to 1820, it connects the Grand Union Junction canal in Paddington, in the west, with Limehouse Basin, in the east, where it spills out into the River Thames. Until the railways came into being, the canals played an important role in British transportation, with horses pulling barges along the canal network from London all the way to Birmingham in the north.
Dotted with colourful narrowboats, the blue line of Regent’s Canal provides a handy shorthand for the diversity of London’s geography. It takes in leafy Little Venice, passes the London Zoo at expansive Regent’s Park, forges past grimy, hectic Camden, before reaching the calmer environs of Angel and Shoreditch beyond it. There aren’t many places in London that remain neglected by entrepreneurial spirits with gourmet flair. But the calm and tree-lined north-eastern section of the canal from Angel has, mysteriously, been one of them – until now.
Feeling hungry during a recent run along the canal, we decided to stop for coffee and brunch at the fabulous Towpath Cafe (below). After a hearty bowl of granola and a perfectly crafted latte, we were lounging in the sun on the cafe’s small barge, which is moored alongside to accommodate the inevitable spill-over of clientele, when my eye caught what looked to be a new establishment next door. Yes indeed. How had I missed it?
Waterline is exactly what is needed in this area. Stylishly put-together, its decor is a mix of industrial, wood and white tiles. It combines a relaxed bar area with tables and chairs looking out to the shimmering water beyond, with an atmospheric upstairs dining area. Out the back is a function room, complete with white mini-baby grand, with plans afoot to stage film and music events there.
We couldn’t get there fast enough. Fortunately, I had a birthday dinner to organise and so 20 of us alighted upon Waterline for dinner last Wednesday. The manager, Hugh, and his sidekick, Anthony, could not have been more accommodating. They organised a birthday cake (a steal at £39, with enough dark chocolate and raspberry cake to feed a team of narrowboat sailors) and cheerfully modified the menu to cater for a big range of allergies and aversions.
And the food! Oh, the food! For groups larger than 10 the set menu worked well: £19.95 for two courses, £25 for three. For starters, my potted salt beef was melt-in-the mouth, while my fellow diners reported good things of the cured salmon and leek and mushroom tart. The mains, which ranged from sea bass fillet in tomato broth, duck with celeriac, blue cheese and pear salad, to rib eye steak, were received equally well. The duck was tender and not fatty, the steak was juicy and the sea bass gorgeously light.
Though hidden away and not the easiest place to get to (Haggerston, on the east London line, is the closest station and there are a number of bus routes nearby), it’s worth making a beeline for Waterline before the many cyclists and joggers of north London get wind of it, just like we did.
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