diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 08, 2012

Tuesday lunchtime: The Labworth
I needed the hard sell to lure Best Mate onto Canvey Island. It's not the most obvious place for a day trip, let alone a wintry walk round the sea wall past the gas tanks. But I had an ulterior motive in mind, which was lunch inside a Grade II listed building I've admired since the first time I saw it. Unexpectedly, and overwhelmingly, The Labworth was a delight. It's the only building that architect Ove Arup ever designed all by himself, back in the 1930s when Canvey was a burgeoning seaside resort. His creation was meant to resemble the bridge of the Queen Mary liner, and comprises a central drum with two white outstretched arms facing the Thames. The floods of 1953 forced the embedding of the building into a strengthened sea defence, but The Labworth is still an unreservedly Modernist design. The upper floor of the drum houses the restaurant, with toilets and kitchen immediately below, and a Beach Bistro cafe strung out across the waterfront. Come at lunchtime and the cafe's your only option, but that's no bad thing (as we discovered). The interior's smart and airy, mostly white but with bright pink walls at either end. We sat by the window in the central curve with the Thames lapping silvery-grey a few feet away. The view was entirely estuarine, with the low hills of the Hoo Peninsula rising in the far distance, and only a very occasional ship passing by, riding the high tide out of Tilbury. The specials board tempted us away from the usual menu, with our food choices vindicated when each was rubbed from the board soon after ordering. My escalope with mushroom sauce was gorgeous, well beyond expectations, accompanied by asparagus and a more than generous serving of crisp, fluffy roast potatoes. This was followed by a "tasting plate" for dessert, comprising decent-sized portions of pavlova, tiramisu and waffle (with ice cream), which were delicious. Service was charmingly cheery throughout, and the entire meal for two came in for under £30. Who'd have guessed that the Canvey waterfront hid such an architectural and culinary gem?
I left with: a very happy stomach, and the urge to visit again
A photo for you: The Labworth, taken from as far down the sea wall as high tide would allow
Another photo for you: Compare and contrast, Calor Gas's nearby "Canvey Terminal"

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