05 May 2017

Apéros at Giant Robot, Canary Wharf

I've long been a fan of the street food emporia run by the Street Feast team (see also my reviews of Hawker House in Canada Water, Model Market in Lewisham and Hawker House in Hackney) and when my Instagram was bombarded recently with pictures of delicious food and drinks at the latest venue, I knew it wouldn't take long for me to visit.

Giant Robot is located in Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf and it's an ambitious venture that feels quite different to the other Street Feast venues I've visited. I often struggle to navigate in the labyrinthine tunnels of Canary Wharf but made it out into the daylight of Crossrail Place in just over five minutes' walk from the Jubilee Line. It was a beautiful Saturday and the building that houses Giant Robot looked suitably futuristic and robotic, glinting in the early evening sunshine. No, Toto, we are not in Lewisham anymore.

My brother, sister-in-law and I rode the escalators up to the rooftop and, to our surprise, found ourselves in a verdant park — a sort of 'sky garden', if you will (if only the real Sky Garden was more like this and less like an airport terminal). There were even birds — nature!

We headed over to the Giant Robot entrance and wandered inside. Unlike some of the other Street Feast venues, this one is entirely indoors — there is a wrap-around balcony, with some nice views of Docklands and the cable car, but on a sunny evening, there were a fair few smokers out there. The big glass windows mean you will probably also get a good view from wherever you're sitting indoors. Perhaps because Giant Robot is new and perhaps because it was a Saturday in Canary Wharf, it wasn't as packed with people as I had been expecting, which has been my experience at most other Street Feasts. There was a nice ambiance and enough people to give it some energy, particularly later in the evening, but there were plenty of tables and we didn't have to queue.

Another difference I noticed was that there were only four food vendors, plus a few bars serving craft beer, wine and cocktails. BOB's Lobster — purveyors of one London's finest lobster rolls — was there and so was Yum Bun, whose Taiwanese buns I've enjoyed at various street food markets over the years. There was also BBQ chicken shop, Thunderbird, and Little José, a tapas bar from Bermondsey-Street-based José Pizarro. Before I arrived, I'd planned to eat at Thunderbird, but a change of dinner plans meant we decided just to get starters at Giant Robot, and Little José seemed like the perfect venue.

Between three of us, we shared the spicy prawn fritters (£8), which were probably the winner; croquetas with ham (£6.50); and the Iberico ham on tomato bread (£8.50). These light viands weren't especially cheap but they were delicious and just about the right amount of food.

Drinks-wise, I tried a few different cocktails, most of which were £9-10 (a little pricier than the other Street Feasts, but this is Canary Wharf...). The negroni sbagliato was rather good, as was Little José's take on the G&T, with Gin Mare and rosemary. The cocktail bar was particularly well stocked — I spotted my favourite Death's Door gin on the shelf — but my brother was a little frustrated to discover that ordering off the (somewhat limited and not particularly creative) cocktail menu wasn't possible. I can understand why when it's super busy but it was relatively quiet when we were there.

I'd like to go back to Giant Robot on a week night to see what it's like then — at least, I think I would; perhaps it's insanely busy with the banking crowd. Giant Robot also feels the most corporate of all the Street Feasts I've visited. This is entirely unsurprising given the probable target audience. I think having one or two more vendors to provide more variety might also help, although I could quite happily eat lobster rolls, BBQ and tapas all night long! And for those of us with winter birthdays, the indoor nature of Giant Robot makes it a great destination for an informal celebration with a group.

As for where we went for dinner, on arriving in the rooftop garden, we spotted the Canary Wharf branch of a surf-turf family favourite of ours, The Big Easy, and couldn't resist putting our name down for a table. The food was great as usual and the restaurant was buzzing, but the constant, shameless up-selling ("my personal recommendation is the steak and lobster") was a little off-putting. After dinner, we went back to Giant Robot for another drink or two.

Giant Robot. Garden Level, Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AR (Tube: Canary Wharf). Website. Twitter. Instagram. Open every day, 11 am until late.

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