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The Lightship (St Katherine's Dock, London)

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    2 Reviews
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      22.01.2007 12:56

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      dont go there ghost ship

      I and eight other people dined at this restaurant on sat night .I can only tell the truth .it was the worst meal I have ever had! The atmosphere was hidieous and the food cold the smallest portions I have ever had.mackral raw and bottle top from diffrent drink in bottom of glass only three people eat there meal fully . When asked if i could have my fish cooked for longer i was told no the chef wont do it! I do not wish to dine in a place that will not listen to any requests from customers I will make sure that any6one and everyone will know what a terrible place this is to dine. Oh dont have the vanilla tart as it is lemon.

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      08.05.2006 16:11
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      Floating restaurant of a British/Scandinavian flavour in London's restored St Katherine's Dock

      COMPULSORY PRE(R)AMBLE

      I’ve just eaten out in one of the RAF’s (or was it The Fleet Air Arm’s?) less well-known failures.

      The Lightship Restaurant, now moored permanently in London’s St. Katherine’s Dock, was built in the 1870s in Denmark, and was used right through to the 1970s (as a lightship, surprise, surprise), having seen the Second World War years under German command. It was during this period that the British did their darndest to sink her, although you do have to wonder if operating a lightship during a black-out was in fact the wisest thing the crew could have done. To protect the crew from strafing by fighter aircraft, the Germans had quite simply cobbled the upper deck to ward off machine gun and cannon rounds from the odd Spitfire – she is after all entirely timber built.

      How do I know that? Well, I just spent the earlier part of an evening sitting right next to some pretty hefty dark oak planking which forms the seemingly 2-foot thick hull. Perhaps she needed some ice-resisting capacity too, especially if moored in the Baltic.

      FINDING IT WITHOUT A GUNSIGHT

      To get to The Lightship on foot, do NOT use the map supplied by Googlemap – this is for car/taxi access and takes you all the way around the periphery of the entire dock (I know, we walked it in the rain). If walking from nearby Tower Hill Underground station, take the slope or steps down the left hand side of Tower Bridge Approach, pass through the Tower Hotel’s tunnel of an access road, et voilà, The Lightship, i.e. the boat that looks like a lightship, is labelled ‘The Lightship’, and is permanently moored like a lightship, is dead ahead of you next to the cupola that houses the annoyingly ubiquitous Starbucks.

      PUSHING THE BOAT OUT

      (Well, I would but it’s moored)

      Of course, any mention of ‘eating out’, ‘central London’ and ‘restaurant’ in the same sentence sends my wallet running away in a fit of self-preservation. Indeed, perusal of their menu does indeed confirm that it would be easy to spend well over £100 on a 3-course meal for two with all the usual trimmings. Even the cheapest red wine is £18 per bottle.

      However, this is where a website called www.toptable.co.uk steps in with some useful discounts. I’ve written about this one before and jolly useful it is too, especially for finding nice but affordable places in London. Other major cities in the UK and European capitals also get a look-in but not to the same extent.

      According to Toptable, you could get half-price food at The Lightship if you reserve a table before 7 pm on Saturdays. You can even book through their network, which even gives you an e-mail to print as evidence that you’re one of the ‘early evening cheapskates’, in case there’s a misunderstanding with the bill later. Having said that you must book before 7 pm does not mean that you are hassled to leave early too – they do not operate ‘sittings’ here.

      CREW RATIONS

      I have to say that the ‘nose-bag on this hulk’ is top-notch, as is the atmosphere and the staff are suitably friendly but respectful. One of them bore a startling resemblance to Hercule Poirot, complete with Brylcreemed kiss-curl, and an accent to match (The late Kenny Everett’s Marcel Wave came to mind also). At first I thought that they were all being unnecessarily obsequious, walking with a permanent stoop, but any 6-footers (that’s their height, not the fact that they’re insects) leaping out of their seat, forgetting the ceiling height had better take some witch-hazel for the bruise. Yes, we were seated on the lower deck, which only had portholes through which to admire the rain, but on balance, I think it was nicer than the upper saloon. Lighting levels were set just right for a tea-light in the centre of the table to have some effect. Tables in the centre of the floor had table cloths but no view. Booth-like bare tables for two around the edges were cosier, and the bows (both ends on a lightship) carried some larger formations for parties. Maybe on this year’s one sunlit evening, the upper saloon would have been nicer.

      The only minor irritation, when we first sat down was the level of the background music was somewhat high, but we were humoured, and they turned it down straightaway.

      We ordered a couple of pre-prandial drinks. Oh yes, and they don’t try to push any noncy and therefore expensive water on you – a jug of iced tap water does fine.

      My starter was a plate of seared scallops with a lightweight selection of vegetables, and for a main course, I ordered the herb-crusted rack of lamb, with bootlace chips (they had some other fancy name) bundled like firewood in bacon. My wife ordered the seared black tiger prawns with garlic and herb butter – curiously, she had to ask for a finger bowl, but when it did come, the water was blood temperature, a nice touch. Her main course was filet of pork mignon with a pancetta and black pudding stuffing.

      Our desserts were Tarte Tatin with caramel ice-cream and Strawberry And White Chocolate Millefeuille with home made strawberry ice-cream.

      All rounded off with a couple of Espresso Doppio, steeling myself for the presentation of the bill.

      Well, it was to be expected, even with the half-price food.

      Just a few coppers short of £79.

      This is partly explained by the £9 for two pre-dinner drinks and the fact that the cheapest red wine was £18*, combined with the fact that they add a 12.5% service charge. I don’t know what it is about that last 2.5% that I find so objectionable, since I never mind 10% as long as service hasn’t been bad, but when you charge more for the food in the first place, raising an extra 1/8th by this means seems a trifle cheeky. On first checking the bill, I confirmed that they had discounted the food, but bear in mind that it would have still been possible for some of the main courses to have cost £16, even at half price - not that we ordered them, you understand.

      *We did indeed order the Chilean Maipo Cabernet-Sauvignon at £18/bottle and very drinkable it was too – somewhat better than cheek-sucking makes-your-teeth-furry Sicilian Merlot we had last week in Pizza Express for 12 quid!

      However, as I said before, the sentence DID contain the words ‘eating out’, ‘central London’ and ‘restaurant’ – in this case in a novelty location, so I guess the bill was to be expected. It was rather nice in every way after all. Incidentally, I’ve stopped my wife from saying ‘to die for’ in my presence, with a warning that she just might. She now says ‘TDF’, hoping that I’ll think she’s talking about a kind of chipboard, but I’m just biding my time.

      Despite the excellent standard of food, for a restaurant that describes itself as British and Scandinavian, there was little Nordic influence in evidence the night we went. The starters mentioned Gravad Lax, the marinated salmon dish and another chilled salmon dish, even venturing to go one better and include a Scandinavian Fish Platter (including both of the former - cheat!), and the main courses included Danish meat balls, but that’s about it. The latter were the cheapest meat item on the main course menu at around £14.50 (full price that is).

      You can pull down a menu from www.lightshipten.com

      Yes, this place does rock, in more ways than one – I think it was when the Gibraltar-registered gin-palace of a private yacht went past, or was it the party of eight coming down the gang-plank?

      Anyway, the walk back to Tower Hill was somewhat shorter than going there.

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