During my 23 years as a diligent student – (education starts at birth if you’re brown), I have made my fair share of mistakes. There was that time during GCSEs when I brought shame upon my family by coming home with a B, and that time during A-levels when I applied for dentistry. But none of these comes close to my monumental moment of idiocy last week, when I misread the candidate rota for the final examination of my degree, and nearly missed it altogether.
Fortunately, thanks to my university being as organised as a headless chicken with its feet on fire, the examination was running late, and after throwing everyone into a state of hysteria, I managed to scramble into university with my heart inside my mouth. Two hours of brutal dental interrogation followed, and after emerging as a beaten, but qualified bachelor of dental surgery, I needed something – anything to counter the trauma I had just experienced. And so, with the Bartans in tow, I headed over to the newly-opened (and bizarrely-named) 2Four4 Lounge in Poplar, to refuel with a healthy dose of meat and sugar.
Halal status: All the meat served here is halal.
Situated on the ground floor of the Docklands Lodge Hotel, 2Four4 Lounge hosts a contemporary European menu that is rather unique as far as halal food in Poplar is concerned. To start, I ordered the smoked haddock and white mushroom risotto – cooked with creme fraiche and truffle oil, and served with a side order of prejudiced “The Bengali ordered fish” gags at the hands of my companions. Taking no notice of their existence, I tucked in to the tangle of risotto and haddock to find a delightfully soft, sticky, and creamy texture, which harmonised with the delicate set of flavours within. Instantly, my expectations were raised for the rest of the meal.
Smoked haddock & wild mushroom risotto (£7.95) *Recommended*
For mains, I had ordered the surf n’ turf – composed of beef fillet medallions, king prawns, dauphinoise potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and a garlic and chilli butter sauce. Much to my disappointment, the medallion fillets were far thinner than I had been anticipating, and a significant portion of each had been inadvertently cooked to well-done as a result. Combined with the lack of an adequate crust, this detracted greatly from the texture and taste of the beef. The prawns on the other hand, were cooked to perfection, and whilst this somewhat made up for the lacklustre medallions, the real star of the show proved to be the dauphinoise potatoes. Soft, buttery, and wonderfully layered, they contrasted well with the crunchy mess of peppers and chilli, and added some much needed dimension to the dish.
Surf N’ Turf (£24.95)
Not wanting to leave without doing at least some sort of damage to my teeth, I ordered a fruit crème brûlée to finish. Though the primary layer of caramel proved to be a little on the thin side, it revealed a smooth and creamy custard base once it had been broken through, and this combined wonderfully with the tartness of the accompanying raspberry and passionfruit coulis. Texturally, the brûlée was enhanced by a litter of crushed walnuts and crispy wafer rolls, and this somewhat compensated for the lack of density in the caramel top.
Crème brûlée (£7.95) *Recommended*
Value For Money: 3/5
When it comes to the matter of value, it’s clear that 2Four4 Lounge aims to provide an affordable, fine-dining-esque experience that is on par with the grandeur of its neighbours in Canary Wharf. Indeed, the presentation of each dish is crisp and refined, and the restaurant itself carries a certain charm, but whilst the starters and desserts are reasonably priced – (between £8-£10), the main courses seem to stretch above their grade. My fillet medallions for example, carried very little in way of quality and quantity, and had it not been for the accompanying components, they could certainly have spelt disaster for the entire dish. It could be said then, that whilst 2Four4 aims to provide a refined culinary experience, they’re not quite there just yet.
Service on the other hand, was nothing short of excellent, and the staff at 2Four4 were certainly far more attentive than I was when I read through my candidate rota the week before. It did however, take a little bit of time to bring through our starters and mains, but this was understandable given the size of our group.
The restaurant itself occupies a relatively small space within the lobby of the Docklands Lodge Hotel, and when walking through the residential road it’s located on, it’s fairly easy to miss it altogether. However, what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for in style, with a modern and attractive decor that does justice to the culinary calibre that they are aiming for. 2Four4 can be found a quick walk away from Poplar, Blackwall, or All Saints stations, and parking restrictions may apply in the nearby area.
(Photo source: the2four4lounge.co.uk)
When one considers the diversity to be found within London’s halal dining scene, it really is quite frustrating to see that there aren’t a great number of halal restaurants that offer a contemporary European dining experience. It is a cruel and ironic gap in London’s halal food sector, and one that establishments such as Yumn Brasserie and 2Four4 Lounge aim to fill up. But, whilst 2Four4 provide a culinary experience that is unlike anything else to be found in Poplar, it’s clear that their consistency and their execution needs a significant amount of work. Much like our merry band of newly-qualified dentists, there is an equal amount of rough edges as there is untapped potential. For this reason, 2Four4 may not be a restaurant to jump at right away, but they are certainly one to keep an eye on over the coming weeks and months.
The 2Four4 Lounge
Address: Docklands Lodge Hotel, 244 Poplar High Street, Poplar, London E14 0BB
Telephone: 0207 987 9904