photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam or Berlin, then you might have been to a buzzy restaurant on an industrial estate. An old car factory maybe, opposite the river, with red wine stains on the table, flickering candles, and obscenely angular people. In London it feels a bit different. In London you’ll eat lunch with views of a Screwfix. Or head to dinner by shortcutting through forbidding marshland where Uber bikes go to die. London doesn’t have much of a cute and casual industrial dining scene, apart from when it comes to Lighthaus Cafe.
The Walthamstow cafe and restaurant is that rarest of things: a snug and cosy warehouse in the daytime and a candlelit den at night. You wouldn’t think it from the outside (especially given its vicinity to not just a Screwfix but a Toolstation as well) but this pastel coloured room, full of homemade furniture and sofas you desperately want to sink into, is homely and comfortable and serves food you want to spend your time eating. There are mums and dads during the day, buggies and lockdown dogs in tow, hoovering pastries and grateful for quiet sanctuary. And then, come nightfall, it’s something altogether more intimate. Couples, friends, wine that leans agricultural, and a colourful, seasonal set menu made for elbows on tables and leisurely sharing.
Lighthaus’ a la carte lunch menu is for grazing when you’re working, or Twitter doomscrolling your peace of mind into oblivion. A beetroot and blackberry galette, a kimchi toastie, a stew that calls for the sofa. Dinner, meanwhile, is a seven-course set menu affair. Seasonality is key to the female duo cooking in the Lighthaus Cafe kitchen. So, while we enjoyed things like pan con tomate and a beautifully charred cabbage lazing in whipped feta at the very backend of summer, you can expect things to get altogether heartier and earthier in tandem with the colder months. All of which is to say, this is a restaurant and cafe that knows what you want to eat before you’ve even made a booking.
Given that dinner is only served on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s a bit of organisation required. You kind of need to drive or get dropped here—as refreshing as a nighttime wander along the River Lea and the marshes might be, most of us have watched Luther. But once you are at the Lighthaus Cafe, it feels like a hard place to leave. Everyone here is relaxed, the staff are virtually horizontal, and a generous and quietly excellent seven-course menu costs £49 a head. You might have had a few good nights in a no-man’s land warehouse before but, believe us, none will be as nourishing as this one.
We’re not going to claim that £49 puts Lighthaus Cafe into London’s best-value category but given the quality and generosity of their seven-course menu, it’s a pretty good deal. You’ll likely get a plate of homemade pickles and a crostini of some kind (if it’s up to us, paired with a negroni), before a couple of salads. Or rather, vegetable plates: watermelon, cantaloupe, feta and chilli, say. Or a roasted summer squash with farro, hazelnuts and ajo blanco. Don’t be surprised to find different elements for different cuisines here. We’ve gone from chilli crisp-laden cucumber to smoky, north African-spiced aubergine. You’ll more than likely have handmade pasta too, and then a meaty and fishy main before dessert.