Rosemary Lane is a few doors down from the Artful Dodger pub, whose name more accurately captures the atmosphere of the area. Near Tower Hill but looking up at the Docklands Light Railway trains thundering overhead, Rosemary Lane is not going to attract many diners for the view. The building was once a pub, but the dining room looks smart enough, with dark wood panelling and well spaced tables, seating less than 40 people at capacity.
The kitchen is in the hands of owner/chef Christina Anghelescu, who originally came from California. The menu is competitively priced, with starters £7 - £10 and main courses £13 - £20. The short wine list is kindly marked up and has plenty of choice under £30, with selections such as Dry Creek Chenin Blanc 2006 at £19 for a wine that will set you back around £7 in the shops, the excellent Bonny Doon Cigare Volant 2004 at £34 for a wine that costs £17 retail, and Bernard Moreau Chassagne Montrachet 2007 at £58 compared to a retail price of around £27.
Bread was a choice of white and brown slices, bought in from a bakery called P J Bakery in Wapping. The crust was good, and the texture pleasant if unexceptional (13/20). Pea soup with fresh mint with olive oil and thick yoghurt had considerable intensity of pea flavour and was well seasoned, the mint flavour well under control, though I am not sure that the yoghurt added much (14/20).
Tuna tataki with white and black sesame dressing had reasonable quality seared tuna in thin strips, presented on a bed of julienned cucumber, tomato and spring onion. The dressing worked well enough with the tuna, though the base of vegetables did not have a lot of taste (12/20). A slight gap in proceedings was filled by a little taste of smooth pear sorbet that tasted properly of pear (14/20). Gnocchi made from Russet potatoes were served with red chard, white mushrooms, beurre blanc, herb and cranberries. The gnocchi were quite well made, if having a slightly more dense texture than ideal, but the red chard was overcooked and there were hardly any mushrooms (13/20).
My sirloin steak (28 day aged, from “somewhere in the Midlands”) was served with a demi-glace made from veal stock and cognac, with cherry tomatoes and French potatoes. The potatoes were pleasant, but the steak itself, although cooked medium rare, was distinctly stringy in texture, and the flavour did not come across particularly well, despite seasoning being fine. I suspect this was just not a great piece of meat, although capably enough cooked; the demi-glace was rather lost on the plate, which was a shame given the effort that doubtless went into making it (12/20).
Chocolate fondant had a liquid centre and was served with an orange ice cream that tasted of orange and had smooth texture (14/20). This was better than apple crumble served with vanilla ice cream, whose crumble was soggy due to the ice cream resting on it (better to serve this on the side). The apple was fine, but the vanilla ice cream lacked any visible vanilla specks, and had such little flavour it was hard to tell what its main flavour was supposed to be (12/20). Illy coffee was fine (14/20).
Service was very good from our Polish waiter Dominik and a supporting waitress, and the bill came to £147 for two with one of the best wines on the list and a glass of dessert wine. Overall I thought this was a perfectly pleasant if slightly inconsistent experience, and given the emphasis on the restaurant web site about ingredient care, this aspect did not really come across that much in the meal that we ate. However, it is a place that I would return to if in the area.