The concept for the Wednesday-to-Sunday restaurant is affordable, informal, simple dining using seasonal ingredients, sustainable fish and free-range meat. In keeping with current food trends Milieu E7 is lighter on meat options and more veggie-focused than the Milieu you may have met at the North Star and Tina We Salute You E20.
“We’re shooting for a more well-rounded menu than the food we previously designed to go with copious amounts of beer,” explains Michael. “Also a more vegetable-focused menu is kinder on the environment, which can only be a good thing.”The 18-cover dining room is super-minimalist (not a bad thing, just saying). The walls, a mix of exposed brick and lime-washed tongue-and-groove, are bare, and the windows, which let in the early evening summer sun, are free from curtains or any of that malarkey. Bare bulbs hang from the ceiling and tea lights in glass holders are the sole decorative touch on the wooden tables.
The menu is short, three starters, three mains and three desserts. However, its brevity didn’t make choosing what to have any easier given that I liked the sound of Every Single Starter. After hours of deliberation (not really, but I’m sure the very nice waiter must have been thinking, “There’s only nine things on the entire menu, what on earth’s taking so long?”), I went for the heritage tomato salad with ricotta and basil, followed by hake, with asparagus, Jersey Royals and aioli.
I’d thought that maybe a salad starter was a boring choice. Not so. This little number featured traffic light coloured tomatoes (so pretty and so tasty!), sitting on top of ricotta whipped with cream and drizzled with basil pesto. I’ve never eaten tomatoes, pesto or ricotta like it. In a good way. I’ve always been of the opinion that ricotta was a bit pointless but, whipped with cream, it’s like a whole different cheese.Choosing the main was less painful, given that I usually go for fish. The hake was perfectly pan-roasted, the asparagus charred just so and the boiled Jersey Royals went with the subtly flavoured roast garlic aioli, like, well, two things that are meant to be together.
It was the English summer of your dreams in a meal (although isn’t asparagus season over?). With Michael planning to change things up every two weeks or so, depending on market availability, I’m hoping to make it back whilst it’s still on the menu.
To accompany the food, CoffeE7 offers a range of natural, organic and biodynamic wines, starting at £3 a glass (yes, you read that correctly, £3!), a selection of London-brewed craft beers, plus soft drinks from Fentimans and Allpress coffee.
Two courses cost £20, three a very reasonable £25. To keep things simple it’s a no-reservations-just-show-up kind of place (unless you have a party of more than six people, in which case shoot Michael an email or tweet). My advice would be to get there early – by 7pm on opening night every table was full.
The plan is for the restaurant to run throughout August and, if it proves popular, on an ongoing basis. So use it, or lose it basically.
Oh, and if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but it’s in Forest Gate, mate,” it took me ten minutes by bike from Leyton, so no excuses E10 and E11 dwellers. Race you there.