Allegra Restaurant & Bar at The Stratford review: east London’s best kept secret
Go for the gorgeous food and stay the night in the sumptuous hotel
High on the seventh floor of The Stratford hotel in east London, a stone’s throw from the Olympic stadium, Zaha Hadid’s gorgeous stingray-esque swimming pool, and the bright lights of Westfields shopping centre, is Allegra, possibly east London’s best kept secret. Here, a culinary genius is quietly at work, crafting flavours that are sophisticated and joyful, in a restaurant that is elegant and convivial. That genius is Irish head chef, Patrick Powell, formerly of Chiltern Firehouse, Wild Honey and Dublin’s L’Ecrivain. His modern European menu, influenced by local, organic produce is truly a hidden marvel.
To reach Allegra, you step into a lift which is squirreled away out of sight when you enter the hotel lobby. The doors open out onto a glamorous restaurant, with perfectly pitched music, plants and a romantic, minimalist stone bar. Outside is a rustic grill and fire pit on the restaurant’s sky terrace.
We start with a welcome cocktail, a refreshing campari concoction of pale amber in a delicate little goblet, accompanied by some fantastic staccato snacks – a pistachio choux crammed with luxuriously smooth chicken liver parfait with tart, oozing cranberry. The mini blood pudding muffins with pickled jalapeno – the chef’s take on a McMuffin – are wickedly playful. It’s the sort of fare that makes you fall in love with food.
The true seal of approval
’Tis the season for asparagus and crab, and for my starter, I dutifully acquiesce. The perfectly grilled green spears glow emerald, lifted by hints of ginger and pistachio; the crab is fresh and exquisite. Why choose between presentation and taste, when both can be sublime? The barbecued Cornish mackerel is a masterclass in never having to compromise. Stuffed with a sofrita of confit onion, garlic, tomato and saffron, its tail is delicately poised on a pool of perfect bouillabaisse. It’s a happy union of rich, meaty fish, crispy croutons and gluttonous aioli.
The rib eye of grass-fed beef for main, which grudgingly, is for sharing, is bold, celebratory comfort food. The ruby-red flesh is supplied by Txuleta, which specialises in ex-dairy, 100% grass-fed beef. Old cows might not scream sophistication, but the higher fat content gives the steaks incredible flavour and texture. It comes served with roast bone marrow, tomatoes cooked with beef fat and glorious herby potatoes. It’s seemingly effortless and exquisite, hearty and heartfelt.
A slight pause, and then for the final movement of the evening’s symphony; a rich slab of chocolate tart, intensely dense, offset by the comforting basics of salt and milk ice-cream – a bit like a sophisticated mini-milk. It’s not always easy to please a chocolate lover who may have had more chocolate tarts than hot dinners, but this one brings the involuntary smile to the lips, the true seal of approval.
A class act
The Stratford itself is set across the first six floors of the building, a 145-room design hotel by the Scandinavian design duo behind Noma and developer Harry Handelsman (the man behind the St Pancras Hotel restoration and Marylebone’s fashionable Chiltern Firehouse). It’s a masterpiece of Scandi cool, fusing elegant pieces of modern, minimalist furniture within an old school, classic hotel context.
We stayed in the Manhattan studio, which is an impressive 65 sqm of floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views – although the blinds are down, and I half wonder whether it’s to cover up the views over the railway line and shopping centre (which I actually find quite beautiful). The bathroom is elegant in cool, white stone, complete with its huge standalone bath, which is wonderful for a soak but the hot water could have been much hotter.
Allegra and The Stratford are a class act; both confident and glamorous in its grown-up and vibrant east London home. Go for the gorgeous food and dreamy setting, stay the night in the sumptuous hotel and enjoy the vitality of the surrounding area. It’s well worth a trip.
Allegra Restaurant & Bar, The Stratford, 20 International Way, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, E20 1FD; allegra-restaurant.com