Fine dining goes social at The Water House Project

Words by
Charlotte McManus

4th January 2022

Located in Bethnal Green, the first permanent outpost from up-and-coming culinary talent Gabriel Waterhouse is the talk of East London's food scene - and it's not difficult to see why

A novel hybrid fusing the laidback atmosphere of a supper club with the artistry of fine dining, The Water House Project bills itself as a "dining experience" rather than anything as pedestrian as a traditional restaurant. It is was founded by one Gabriel Waterhouse, a Galvin la Chapelle-trained chef who originally launched the initiative as a 12-seat experience within his own flat in Bethnal Green. It soon became a cult success, leading Waterhouse to expand with a residency on Hackney's Mare Street, before opening permanent premises on nearby Corbridge Crescent last September.

Here, would-be diners are asked to purchase tickets in advance and arrive promptly for the evening's single 7pm seating (currently offered Wednesdays - Saturdays). There is just the one menu on offer, a nine-course tasting affair, changing each month to reflect the freshest seasonal ingredients - especially vegetables - whilst dishes combine earthy flavours with subtly Nordic influences. Tailored wine pairings are also available, as well as non-alcoholic alternatives with home-made infusions. 

Fine dining goes social at The Water House Project
Gabriel Waterhouse at work

When I arrive on the dot of 7pm on a drizzly winter weeknight, the 40-cover space is already packed out. Colourful swathes of dried plants, herbs and flowers hang from the ceiling, softening the industrial-style space, whilst candles, hanging lights and huge floor-to-ceiling windows create a sense of cosiness in contrast to the miserable weather outside. What's more, the "borderless" kitchen is completely exposed, allowing diners to enjoy the theatre of each dish being crafted in front of them. 

Accompanying the welcome cocktails - my friend and I opt for dry vodka martinis - are flavoursome bites in the form of chicken liver macaroons and rainbow radish tuilles, simply yet elegantly presented on wicker and weave. Before the bread is served - warm, stodgy sourdough accompanied by butters made with black garlic and preserved lemon - Waterhouse and his team take a moment to welcome tonight's diners. 

The first course, starring Jerusalem artichoke, comes with one of those artful platings that look as though the ingredients have simply fallen thus on the plate, though it's clear a great deal of precision went into it. A hearty confection of cap and maitake mushrooms with buckwheat follows, while contrasts of sharp gooseberry and warming horseradish play to the palette against a tender strip of Cornish mackerel. Aylesbury duck, melt-in-the-mouth and perfectly pink, is served alongside purées of cherry and chestnut, with spiced gingerbread sauce adding a playful seasonal kick.

The cheese course arrives in the form of Bleu de Basque shavings with pear and pine nut crumble, followed by a cool, palate-cleansing carrot "granite". For dessert, the artichoke ice cream is a delight, fragrant and creamy and served with honeycomb, while petits fours accompany coffee in the form of juniper marshmallows and vodka-infused chocolate. As clever and inventive as each dish has been, the atmosphere has remained decidedly relaxed and sociable throughout - it is also agreeably affordable for a wine-paired tasting menu, costing just £120 for the lot. Suitably replete, my friend and I toddle off into the night, considering it an evening very well spent. 

Whether you've booked tickets as a treat, a present or just for curiosity's sake, you'll come away from The Water House Project feeling as though you've tried something new - a dining experience, if you like. 

The Water House Project's nine-course tasting menu is available from Wednesdays - Saturdays. Booking in advance essential. For more information, visit