Having reopened their east London venture earlier this year, Proud East can now call an updated food and cocktail menu a worthy addition to an already attractive selection of attributes. With a friend at the ready I headed down to this cafe-cum-restaurant-cum-bar to take on their new menu, steady my nerve over a game of table tennis, then be hustled for the next round.
Situated a little more than a two minute walk away from Haggerston Station, Proud East sits alongside Regent's Canal and is just a stone’s throw away from the trendy Kingsland Road. Had it been a blissful summer’s afternoon, you’d be hard put to find a better spot in the capital. Unfortunately for my companion and I, the weather was anything but blissful as rain and wind battered against us and the onset of evening all but hid the canal. Yet, once we arrived we were offered the chance to dine al fresco and it is testament to the strength of the venue’s heated outdoor area that a few revellers had taken up the waitress on her offer.
The restaurant sits to one side of the bar and like every other modern diner, is equipped with an open plan floor space and kitchen as well as a cool mezzanine level with comfy sofas. To the other side of the bar lies a games-esque area that with regular table service, is anything but childish. As well as pool and table tennis tables, chic cream sofas line the walls reminiscent of a trendy Mediterranean club and is furthered by white curtains that dangle from the ceiling and separates each sofa into its own area. Easy-listening, non-intrusive dance music plays in the background and (not so) hidden behind one particular curtain I found DJ decks, obviously reserved for slightly more boisterous weekend affairs.
The Food and Drink
There’s a huge variety on offer here from locally sourced breakfasts to delicious Sunday roasts, owing to the fact that Proud East know how to cover all bases. Whilst my Torn Burrata Cheese and Heirloom Tomatoes starter was a casual, fresh and friendly start to dinner, my friend’s Pork Cheek and Celeriac Croquettes were crumbly, tender and rich.
Luckily, all feelings of croquette food envy were quashed once the Slow-Braised Lamb Shank was placed in front of me. With meat falling off the bone into a red wine sauce and creamy mash to soak everything up, the shank was one of the finest lamb dishes I’d tucked into in a long while.My friend indulged in a Dry-Aged Rib-Eye Steak with Skinny Fries which was juicy and cooked exactly how he’d asked for it. It’s refreshing to find a wallet-friendly spot that serves up a steak rare and not medium-rare or blue. We picked an inexpensive wine that was fresh and accompanied the meal well but swiftly moved on to bittersweet Breakfast Martinis and Chilli Mojitos that packed a fierce punch and left me craving more.
We arrived early evening on a Wednesday and as expected, the venue was fairly empty but crucially, not uncomfortably quiet. By the time we’d finished our meal there were only a couple of tables free proving that whilst the rebranded spot may have only been open for just over five months, it’s already proving to be a successful hit. The staff were attentive as well as welcoming and found a fine balance between professional service through a personal and friendly demeanor. It’s an overwhelmingly modern spot and the use of the bar to separate the restaurant and “games” area blends sophisticated dining with the ever-popular bar sport trend. It’s assets like these, that make Proud East a lively albeit easy-going and relaxed venue.
Finding itself tucked away from the main road and not quite being definitively Haggerston, Dalston or Shoreditch could prove a hindrance to Proud East’s ultimate success. Having said that, a combination of indulgent food and cocktails, sociable bar sports and an area that will evidently make way for a dance floor is a fine repertoire to fall back on. And, the opening of a cosy apres-ski Alpine lodge as well as the promise of a hipster pool league demonstrates a thirst for re-invention. What we know for sure is that the fresh spring mornings and summer afternoons alongside the canal will make Proud East a true hidden gem.