photo credit: Patricia Niven
For us Londoners, garages are a bit of a novelty. They’re exotic, mysterious things you only see when you visit your parents. You’ve heard rumours that people can live in them, but you don’t have half a million quid lying around. And like us, if you’ve been here for ages and haven’t driven since 2009, you’ll probably have forgotten what they were originally used for. Were they invented for pop-up raves? Or to house underground sex dungeons?
If you’re the owners of Westerns Laundry, the answer to the question ‘what should I use a garage for?’ is ‘open a great little seafood restaurant.’
The sister restaurant to the beloved Primeur, Westerns Laundry is a small plates spot in Highbury that’s been set up in a converted garage. Focusing on seafood and natural wines, the Spanish-inspired menu changes every day based on whatever’s in season. So you might get some langoustines with a dollop of old-school Marie Rose sauce one day, or a seabass crudo with nice olive oil the next. However, despite the rotating menu, you’ll always find croquetas, oysters, and a rum baba for dessert. The food’s consistently good and though it sounds sophisticated for a neighbourhood restaurant, the experience feels surprisingly casual, especially when you clock that you’re eating in a redecorated parking space.
To be fair, it doesn’t really look like one. The room has been spruced up with art on the walls and big pots of flowers, and on nice days, the patio doors are opened so that you can sit in the sunshine. In the evening, the low lighting makes Westerns Laundry feel like a hidden spot perfect for trysts and intimate dinners, and you can even sit at the bar for a quick snack if you live nearby. And while the relaxed vibe makes it feel like a local, it’s a restaurant we’d also happily travel for. By the end of the meal, you even might consider setting up a bar and selling oysters and cheap prosecco from your own garage.
Just kidding - you don’t have a garage.
You can always expect to find some kind of croquette on the menu. What they all have in common is a super thin layer of crispy batter that gives way to a savoury, oozy centre. We usually hate the word ‘oozy’, but we’ll allow it here.
The plant-based dishes at Westerns Laundry are excellent - bring your vegetarian mate here and order three plates of this for them. Just kidding, don’t do that.
Langoustines With Marie Rose Sauce
At six quid a pop, these are an absolute steal, especially considering how fresh they are. We’d go as far as to say we like them even more than the carabinero prawn at Barrafina, and not just because we could get about three plates of them for the same price.
This wouldn’t be a Spanish-ish restaurant without having some kind of pork on the menu. Whether you eat it cooked or in pata negra form, rest assured it will be fantastic.
A good crudo is about the quality of the fish and the olive oil. The version here’s always sliced to a perfect level of meltiness (we just made that word up), and there’s just enough seasoning to bring out the best in the fish and oil.
It’s absolutely acceptable to rock up here alone for some wine and a dessert, and you’re not going to do much better than the rum baba. It’s for two people to share, so just pretend your friend cancelled on you.