A teeny white lie in my last post: I’d said I was going to the Dock Kitchen on Wednesday. I didn’t. In fact, I ended up going on the Monday; just one day after the Stevie Parle (the Dock Kitchen chef) aubergine dip and bakewell tart effort. I concede this might seem a little like the actions of a stalker. But, to be fair to me, it wasn’t my fault – the friend who I was going with found more interesting and important things to do on Wednesday and rearranged me to earlier in the week.
The restaurant is located just off Ladbroke Grove in Portobello Docks. It’s pretty cool. I know this because it’s above a design studio (Tom Dixon) and the interior is full of designy things. So it must be cool, right?
Actually, it really is. The kitchen is open and in the middle of a long room, one side of which is all window. Massive copper light shades hang low. Some of the crockery is mis-matching (in a good way). The tables and chairs are stylish and, like the plates and bowls, mixed, yet smart and trendy without seeming faddish. Every other table has an arty selection of flowers on. Oh, and each of the carafes of water have a big black sex toy in them … or, if the waiters are to be believed, a rod of charcoal to purify the water (either way, looks good).
Basically it’s what many self consciously stylish supper clubs might look like, given a permanant space and (presumably) a little financial backing. This is not a criticism – I really liked it. And it makes sense too given that, as you may know, the Dock Kitchen has its roots in the ‘pop up’ restaurant/supper club genre. It’s permanent, but the pop up nature remains on display: you’re served a (pretty much) set menu which changes weekly depending on the season and the kitchen’s mood. There’s a theme to each week and though the menu may be tweaked depending on feedback and the kitchen’s own thoughts, it basically remains the same for 7 days before being changed completely the next week. Great concept. Though I imagine it must become quite difficult to keep finding inspiration; and there’s a chance that either dishes are never really mastered, or the really impressive name-on-the-culinary-map signature dishes are never attempted.
Our menu was Robert Carrier inspired …
… no, I’d never heard of him either [and had hoped for an introduction by our waitress or maybe a background paragraph on the menu].
What this meant for us last Monday evening was a four course meal of pizza slices, soup, a choice of three mains (seafood in a bag; rabbit; beef) and rum baba for dessert. I suppose you’d describe it as 70s ‘international’ kitsch.
Anchovy and sweet onion pissaladiere were long slices of thin crust pizzaesque dough with, well, sweet onion and tasty fillets of anchovies on. Decent. Next up was a beetroot borscht – purple broth with a few chunks of the root and a dollop of sour cream in. Nice – I rather liked it. But nothing more than a comforting soup.
I had the rabbit for my main. This was good – the meat was sweet and well cooked – not too tough and springy and in an old-school cream and double mustard sauce. Nice thick bit of bacon in amongst it. A comforting and tangy dish. My friend had the seafood baked in a foil bag with cream. Bass, octopus, clams, red mullet. The fish looked well timed, though 3 of the 4 clams remained closed. We decided it wasn’t the kitchen’s fault, so nothing was said (even though a minor tantrum was, for a moment, brewing). Nice pommes Anna and a decent portion spinach served on the side. After this we were served rum baba (cake soaked in rum). We were both pretty ambivalent about this.
The service was very friendly and well judged (unlike at Barbecoa, the staff were genuinely enthusiastic and knowledgeable). The atmosphere was basically very chilled out and relaxed; maybe too relaxed – considering there was no choice for all but the mains (and only 3 of those), the food took a fair time coming. We forgave the timing, partly on the basis of this being the first night of the week’s menu, but mostly because it was generally a great place to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and a conversation.
Bottom line is that we had a top evening, however the food was nothing more than homely. Maybe that’s because of the theme; I now know that Robert Carrier is mostly famous for writing recipe cards for 1960s and 70s housewives … so it was ultimately basic (if well cooked) dinner party food. Generally I hope for a bit more than that when I eat out. That said, I’ll definitely go again – both to take another view on the cooking, and also because it is, undisputedly, a very enjoyable place. If you can get your friends to fit you in, you should go too.
The Dock Kitchen in 3 words
Casual. Styled. Homely.
Just north of £50 per head with a bottle of wine, coffees and service.
www.thedockkitchen.co.uk – 344/342 Ladbroke Grove, W10 5BU – 0208 962 1610