It’s difficult not to love food living here in London and working in the capital’s newsroom I share that passion with many of my colleagues. Nicola Ford, our Political Producer is one of them and most of our conversations aren’t about the goings on in Westminster but in restaurants, bars and cafes we’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of visiting. She recently went to The Empress to try the frugal feast and I asked if she’d guest review. Here it is – with pictures too, even if some of them are a little blurred – when you read what she drank on a school night it will all make total sense.

I’m not being mean; A Frugal Feast is what the pub name the event which they hold once every couple of months. The concept is simple, £20 for three courses, including bread and mineral water. You can bring your own wine with no corkage charge as long as it’s from the Bottle Apostle, the wine shop across the road. We chose a bottle of white, red and rose which amounted to a bottle each. We were well set.

The Empress is a modern pub with lots of contemporary art and big windows yet it’s comfortable, welcoming and always busy. A Tuesday night is no exception, the restaurant was full. The atmosphere was lively and relaxed, helped along by the very friendly waiting staff.

The menu offers three simple options for each course which includes a basket of sourdough from the E5 Bakehouse which was so good we had two. It also includes a bottle of still and a bottle of sparking mineral water.

I ordered the summer broth with peas and parsley which was light and lemony but felt it could have done with a bit more flavour, although with peas and parsley as the main event it was never going to be as interesting as the other starters on offer the smoked salmon or goats cheese mousse. Both of which my friends said were good.


Smoked Salmon

For my main, I ordered the pork shoulder with roasted fennel and cracked wheat which was very savoury and accompanied by a wonderful jus.


The sea bream with jersey royals and lemon dressing was also “tasty” and whilst no one had the charred aubergine, chickpeas and chilli I’ve had it before and can testify it’s really very nice.

Sea Bream

The poached apricots with vanilla meringue to follow were good if like me you think Îles flottantes is Heaven sent. The blueberry tart evenly divided opinion between good and not so.

Apricots with Meringue

When the bill arrived, we were unanimous in thinking the evening was incredibly good value at £20 per head. There were no hidden extras and we did have a second basket of bread.

The service was also very attentive despite the restaurant being full. They warn on the website it gets really popular, if you’re tempted for August, although at the moment they don’t offer a date, I’d advise calling to book ahead on 0208 533 5123.

Atmosphere: 8

Food: 7.5

Wine: 8 (but I think that was luck)

Here’s the full menu

Frugal Feast June 4th

£20 for 3 courses and bring your own wine (no corkage charge)
Inc E5 Bread & Vivreau mineral water

Summer broth, peas and parsley
Goats cheese mousse and courgette salad
Dill cured salmon with pickled cucumber

Braised pork shoulder, roasted fennel and cracked wheat
Sea bream, jersey royals, spring onion and lemon dressing
Charred aubergine, chickpeas and chilli

Gooseberry tart
Creme caramel
Poached apricots, vanilla meringue

The Empress, 170 Lauriston Road, Hackney E9 7LH

Thanks again to the gorgeous Nicola, the first and hopefully not last guest blog on Hold The Anchovies Please.

Nicola Ford

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