Fish Island’s new Italian restaurant, deli and bar elevates the humble Neopolitan pizza with a side of Italian fine-dining, a dash of New York style and some great cocktails.
Since opening in Fish Island this July, Lanterna already seems to epitomise the area’s vibrant food and drinks scene, fitting into its canalside spot like a hand in a glove.
Locals will know that Fish Island sits on the south side of the Hertford Union Canal, though it is often thought of as a part of its perennially cool and better known Hackney Wick neighbour, attracting a similarly young and vibrant crowd.
Walking from the canal, the ground underfoot turns from cobbles to smooth stone slabs as you approach the glass-framed restaurant, sitting proudly above an expansive open square surrounded by Fish Island Village’s smart New York-style apartment buildings including the new Trampery fashion studios.
Although it calls itself a ‘pizzeria, bar and deli,’ on top of this Lanterna has recently started serving brunch, doubling (or even tripling) as a co-working and events space. Talk about versatility.
Visiting the restaurant on a freezing Monday evening didn’t necessarily provide a snapshot of the venue’s usual vivacity, but a surprising amount of diners had also battled through the level three weather warnings, creating a pleasant buzz.
Lanterna’s festive playlist and homely Christmas tree even lent a cosiness to the large converted warehouse which has been decorated with a classically ‘Hackney’ interior. Think brightly coloured graffiti art, exposed concrete and plentiful pot plants intermixed with plush velvet sofas, ornate lampshades and dark wooden furniture.
A well-stocked marble-topped bar takes centre stage in the restaurant, serving up a wide selection of natural wines, draught beers and all your classic cocktails. You’d be hard-pressed in Hackney Wick to find a cocktail costing less than £8, and alas Lanterna is no different. While tempted by its varied selection of negronis, piccantes and the more obscure wood smoked rye old fashioned, we ended up playing it safe with a traditional bottle of Italian wine which was plentiful.
The comforting smell of pizza wafts throughout the open plan restaurant, a hint of which can even be detected from the mezzanine level, which is perfect for parties and larger bookings.
Though Lanterna is best known for its Neapolitan style pizzas – which are having a bit of a moment in London’s Italian dining scene – this is much more than a one-trick pizza parlour.
From aubergine parmigiana to bavette steak, to antipasti and gelato, the food menus were as busy as Lanterna’s staff on a Saturday night. Guided by our waiter’s personal recommendations, we needn’t had felt overwhelmed.
Opting for the caponata and fried courgette starters, these classic Italian dishes came with unique modern twists, the former topped with two giant crunchy tortillas, an inventive vehicle to dip into the Sicilian tomato stew.
The fried courgettes deserve a particular mention, the gentle flavour of which was brightened by salty anchovies and a scattering of crispy sage leaves before being dipped in a garlic aioli.
Garnished with sweet grapes and roasted walnuts, the vibrant pumpkin and ricotta ravioli was not a shy dish; at once luxuriously creamy while retaining the pasta’s al-dente bite.
But the true test of Lanterna? The Neapolitan-style pizzas that it’s known for.
Cooked in the restaurant’s large wood-burning pizza oven for just long enough to produce the crust’s distinctive gently-charred air pockets, the dough was both chewy and light.
And to top it all off, an affogato drenched in an extra shot of amaretto. A fitting end to an indulgent evening.
While it might sound like Lanterna is trying to be the jack of all trades at the expense of ending up the master of none, this versatile eatery delivers on all fronts. The ideal spot for a romantic dinner with your partner, a Friday night cocktail with friends or a lazy Sunday brunch with your dog in tow, Lanterna in Fish Island is well worth the walk to the canal.
You will find Lanterna at 6, Wyke Rd, Fish Island, E3 2XD. For more info visit Lanternafishisland.com.
If you enjoyed reading this article, see our review of The Greedy Cow in Mile End.
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