So what’s the yarn behind the name?
The Lighterman is so-called after the Victorian workers who operated ‘lighters’, flat-bottomed goods barges, on the canals (and the Thames, for that matter). So the name apparently reflects the restaurant’s proximity to the water, as well as the history behind it.
And it sure is a quirky looking space. What goes on inside?
Quite alot, actually. This week sees the opening of the canal-side bar with alfresco terrace overlooking the bobbing boats, and connecting the building with the shiny new towpath. But in the meantime, wander up to the ground floor for rows of wooden seating directly onto Granary Square, and a glimpse into the kitchen’s flatbread oven. Inside is a big bar that’s already packed nightly with the after work crowd – in keeping with the Lighterman’s wish to be “your new local”. Continue up the stairs to the top floor for panoramic views across both square and canal, with its own wraparound terrace. This is as formal as dining gets here, but on our visit, it was still happily laidback (see panel).
Wowsers. Who’s behind all this?
It’s the ambitious third opening from Open House, whose other joints include Percy & Founders and The Larder, both in Fitzrovia on the site of the former Middlesex Hospital. They’re also the peeps behind Cubitt House, a collection of swanky pubs in locations most Londoners rarely visit (that’s Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Marylebone to you and me). So we can safely say they know their onions.
What’s the vibe inside?
As you might expect for a new-build, extremely industrial: think raw materials, untouched concrete walls and pale floorboards. And those signature floor-to-ceiling windows, so folk can look outwards at either the canal, the fountains on the square or the relentlessly changing local skyline.
The big guy is executive chef Diego Cardoso, who worked his way up the ranks to senior sous chef at Angela Hartnett at The Connaught before joining her Mayfair gaff Murano as head chef. There he not only bagged a Michelin star within the first five months, but maintained it for six years. So he must be pretty good.
What are we eating?
Diego has appointed head chef Aaron Ashmore (semi-finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals 2012) to run the ship – and the menu is what they call “modern British”. So dishes include everything from well-sourced meats and seafood from the wood-fired grill to classic British cooking, spelt-flour flatbreads and weekend brunch.
The Lighterman is open daily across three floors until 1130pm, 3 Granary Square N1C. Starters from £6, mains from £9, desserts £6. More info here