The Lock Dining Bar, Hale Wharf, London N17

Terry Durack finds a centre of food excellence in the middle of nowhere
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Indy Lifestyle Online

This is terribly exciting. I think I might have found the best restaurant in Tottenham, north London. It is also the only restaurant I have found in Tottenham, however, so perhaps I should be more circumspect.

Restaurant guides aren't much use up here. Zagat has no entries for Tottenham, and Time Out Eating & Drinking 2006 lists only a quirky place called Mosaica at The Lock, but that closed last year. Coincidentally, this restaurant is in the same industrial-looking building, in the wetlands of Tottenham Marshes and the Walthamstow Reservoirs. As far as locations go, it gives new resonance to the term "in the middle of nowhere".

The Lock, as it is now known, is the first restaurant of well-credentialled pair Fabrizio Russo and Adebola Adeshina, previously of the Portman Restaurant at the Radisson Portman, where they were restaurant manager and head chef respectively. Nigerian-born Adeshina has the sort of CV money can't buy, including six years with Gordon Ramsay, as well as time at The Capital, The Square and Bonds.

So why here? They say the area has potential, especially with the advent of the 2012 Olympics and the Channel Tunnel rail link from St Pancras. Specifically, however, it is not the West End, with its high rents, me-too menus and transient crowd.

These two know how to make ends meet. Décor-wise, money has been saved by keeping to the gently Moroccan theme of Mosaica, with its North African lamps, wrought-iron detail, and glowing white candles. It's a long room, split into a dining area with bare wooden and tiled tables, a laidback lounge area of couches and leather armchairs, a long service bar, and a brightly lit open kitchen.

Food-wise, Adeshina uses only north-east and east London suppliers, including the local Walthamstow Market. He takes the trouble to buy whole fish and meat on the carcass, doing the butchering and filleting himself and using all "the bits" in his cooking. As a result - and this is the key to The Lock, so to speak - he has put together a really interesting menu, with nothing over £16.

A little appetiser of creamy onion soup with herb oil served in a demitasse is a hospitable start straight out of Gordonworld. Freshly baked breads arrive with flavoured olive oils. Real sea salt is on every table, along with elegant slimline cutlery. The food has one foot in Italy and the other in France. Tagliatelle with artichokes and tomatoes and pan-fried halibut with pumpkin risotto line up against honey-glazed duck breast salad and caramelised pork belly. Sounds simple? It isn't. This is the menu equivalent of the duck gliding serenely on the surface, his legs paddling furiously out of sight.

What is billed as a goat's cheese salad and truffle is actually a disc of slightly dry goat cheese smeared with a rich truffle emulsion, accompanied by a little mould of cooked baby veg and a separate, steamy horseradish soufflé that is a big hit. For £4.50.

A slab of chicken terrine with a layer of foie gras (£5.50) is lush, full-flavoured, and served at room temperature, which makes much more of the flavours than the usual fridge-cold offerings. It comes with a piece of soft ciabatta topped with onions, Taleggio cheese and red pepper, which looks as if it wandered in off the menu by mistake. This good cop/bad cop philosophy runs into main courses as well. A beautifully cooked rump of lamb on a bed of shredded cabbage would more than justify the £13.95 price tag. An additional tartlet filled with kidney, toulouse sausage and spinach is like a first course on the same plate.

A goodly sized slab of rolled confit of pork belly topped with a little roll of "coin" (skin) comes with a disc of mash sitting on creamed leeks (£12.95). The pork is tender and melting without being dry, with a flavour that goes on and on. Both dishes work well with a plummy Sedara Sicilia Nero d'Avola (£24).

Winies would love this place. The hand-picked list is divided into "The Italians", "The French" and, herded together, "The Rest", all showing the same value for money as the menu. A Pignocco Verdicchio I dei Castelli di Jesi, injected with a little Muscat to round out the crispness, is a great buy at £16 (a bottle) or £3.95 (a glass).

Desserts are a blancmange-style "chocaholic tarte" (£5) served on a chocolate-squiggled plate with a scoop of good milk ice cream, which is OK, and a moulded steamed treacle pud (£5) that is terrific - light, spongey and crusty all at the same time, without ever being achingly sweet.

The Lock is very nearly, very good. It needs a little less complexity, a little less cheese, and a few more people to give it some atmosphere. (It gets all this on Sundays, with a popular, ever-changing Sunday roast lunch that costs £10 for two courses - so get out of bed now if you live nearby). But it already has real food with real flavour, generosity, effort, spirit and the sort of knockout value (on both food and wine) to make it the best restaurant in many a London suburb, not just its own. s

14/20

Scores 1-9 stay home and cook 10-11 needs help 12 OK 13 pleasant enough 14 good 15 very good 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable 19 unique and memorable 20 as good as it gets

The Lock Dining Bar, Heron House, Hale Wharf, Ferry Lane, London N17, tel: 020 8885 2829

Lunch Sunday-Friday dinner Monday-Saturday. Around £85 for two, including wine and service

Second helpings: More restaurants near water

Wharf 22 Manor Road, Teddington, tel: 020 8977 6333

Situated in a converted boathouse opposite Teddington Lock, Wharf enjoys great views over the Thames. Former Mosimann's head chef Ray Neve has an inventive way with fish - try the yellowfish tataki and monkfish osso buco.

Simply Heathcotes, Canal Wharf, Water Lane, Leeds, tel: 0113 244 6611

What was a grain warehouse on the banks of the canal is now a modern, look-at-me brasserie. The menu is the much-loved Paul Heathcote all-Brit kit, including Whitby cod and chips, and roasted Goosnargh duck breast.

Waterside Inn Ferry Road, Bray, tel: 01628 620 691

Bray is well endowed with Michelin stars, and three reside at Michel and Alain Roux's iconic riverside gastro temple. The detail in the classic French cooking is extraordinary, from the langoustine soufflé, to a fondant of Bresse pigeon and quail.

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