Tramshed

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It’s not in every restaurant that you see a real Damian Hirst artwork in the middle of a dining room, but then London’s Tramshed isn’t your everyday kind of restaurant. Tucked away in the super cool hipster backstreets of Shoreditch, Tramshed is the latest restaurant opened by Mark Hix, he of Chophouse and Lyme Regis fame.
The name gives away the building’s previous existence and the cavernous exposed brick interior is both wow and cool from the get go. We visited on a Sunday night and it was still jammed, so much so we could only get a seat at the counter, which turned out to be a great move.
Sitting at the counter you get instantaneous service, the eye of your server but a blink away. It delivers a more engaging experience too, one which we tend to shy away from in this country, perhaps it’s our famous reserved nature – but we really enjoyed it and I would recommend it here. We even discovered that our server’s dad came from Wakefield, now that wouldn’t have happened if we’d sat at a table.

The place is all hustle and bustle, with a lively, laid back, family friendly vibe early on a Sunday evening. Watched studiously by the cow and chicken in formaldehyde—which has pride of the place in the centre of the room – we ordered cocktails and perused the menu. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable taking you through the form on the menu—what you should order, how much etc,  some people get annoyed with this perceived nannying approach, but I like it: information is power, especially in a cool London restaurant.

The menu is very simple indeed, chicken or beef ( hence the Hirst artwork and many others in the same vein adorning the Hoxton hipster brick) except for a few bits and bobs, which add some variety to the stripped back offering. I confess I do like this kind of menu: it makes life super easy for me and given I’d had beef the day before, my life just got even easier so we shared a full Swainson House Farm chicken (barn-reared Indian Rock, no less) and the birds are served legs akimbo, with feet attached, golden roasted with a ceramic pot where the head could be. Quite dramatic and very cool.
Starters were simple but lovely: light as air Yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers (oh my) and a shaved pumpkin and walnut fennel salad paved the way for a slap up feast that made us smile. Chicken, chips, onion rings, proper chicken gravy – before long we were knee deep in a perfect combination of a homemade / upmarket / dirtbag food experience. Some would say that is the perfect foodie storm and who can disagree?
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Tramshed white vino was excellent at a sub £20 price in London—shame on pricey Leeds gaffs pricing wine as a way to boost revenues. We don’t mind paying of course, but it’s in London that you see the value of a highly competitive market.
As per usual our eyes were bigger than our bellies and the chicken beat us and in turn edged out the desserts, but we left happy and full, satisfied that London cool needn’t cost the earth and provide a warm and engaging experience.
Northern restaurants can learn a lot from this—and I note with encouragement that newbie Rare in Leeds has taken a few cues from Tramshed, with great success, more on that later…
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River Cottage

 

Last weekend saw us return to River Cottage in Dorset with D and G – technically it’s in East Devon but most of our weekend was spent in Dorset. We’d bought G a special Sunday Lunch at the River Cottage HQ Voucher (on the proviso that we could come along too) and built a rather splendid weekend around that.

Saturday night we ate at Mark Hix‘s wonderfully chilled out Oyster and Fish restaurant in Lyme Regis which enjoys panoramic views if the jurassic coast, although the murky sea fret meant the view from our table was somewhat less spectacular which was a shame. Although the food and service amply made up for that – it was top notch and definitely in Rick Stein territory in terms of experience, with prices to match I might add.

Sunday was a beautifully sunny day (eventually) and our Sunday afternoon was sublime: mooching about the River Cottage HQ, inspecting the gardens and the cottage where they film the TV series and featuring one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had. Beef three ways including ox heart canapés – well it wouldn’t be RC if there weren’t anything odd or unusual to try. All delicious of course.

Breakfast the following day was taken at River Cottage canteen in Axminster which again was superb with great quality ingredients which raised the humble full English to memorable status.

Hugh’s empire in Dorset is becoming comparable to Rick Stein’s in Cornwall and actually it’s all done very well – his personal brand shines through in all aspects. It’s also very evident that the local economy is boosted significantly by his presence and in a county where tourism is king, I suspect he gets every encouragement from the powers that be. One negative we found was the laughably expensive taxis – they seem to be making hay whilst the sun shines charging ludicrously high fares for what are very short distances. It was the only thing that left a sour taste, unlike the food which was of the highest standards.