FORMAN’S RESTAURANT: SMOKIN’
The Olympics will be in London in three years time. Wooo-hooo. Or rather who gives a toss ? Really. In my view £9 billion is just a little too much to pay for the pleasure of watching millions of Parisians suddenly realise they’d lost out to Perfidious Albion.
The location of the Olympic Stadium has also had a knock-on effect on the many local businesses including the venerable Forman’s, a company which specialises in Smoked Fish, which was forced to relocate. The new building, Forman’s Fish Island is as close as you can get to the Olympic Stadium with out actually getting a ticket to watch drug-enhanced US sprinters winning all the medals and in keeping with its Forman’s fishy links has been built in the shape of a “Darne” of Salmon. There are also lots of other fish related details and Salmon pink surfaces abound.
As well as a Smokery the company has put aside one floor for art exhibitions – the area is becoming a bit of a magnet for struggling artists priced out of Hoxton – and also a small occasional restaurant which will be catering for the many corporate liggers that will be coming here over the next few years and Dos Hermanos, of course.
The menu has a slightly old-fashioned, or more accurately, classic feel about it which is unsurprising given that Executive Chef Lloyd Hardwick has previously worked for such luminaries as the Roux Brothers and Michel Bourdin. Not necessarily a bad thing, in this case it equates to more modern tropes like schmears and espumas being jettisoned in favour of proper sauces. Given how rare these are nowadays this is No Bad Thing.
Smoked Salmon was served with all the trimmings. The fish is prepared using the London Cure that Forman’s specialise in. The process like most worthwhile things in this country, was imported by immigrants - specifically Eastern European – and comprises curing the fish in just rock salt with a light smoking afterwards producing a more subtle and less fatty result than you’d normally find.
Terrines were nicely done but as usual even more time at room temperature would have benefited them and though I liked the Caraway bread, which came with some light and silky Salmon Mousse, some toast would have been even better.
Forman’s also supply fish to restaurants so it was no surprise that both my Wild Seabass and HS’s Monkfish were excellent. The latter came wrapped in a sliver of air-dried ham with a little chiffonade of cabbage on the side.
I’d forgotten how an empathic sauce could really add another dimension as the beurre blanc did here. It was light but added a richness that really lifted the whole dish. When the requested spoon proved inadequate HS resorted to fingers to ensure none was wasted. Which tells you all you need to know really.
Meanwhile across the table I was making similar squiggles in the remains of my sauce – this time a vanilla-based one – which had been carefully napped over my Seabass and some iridescent Spinach.
I’d have liked the skin of the Seabass to be a bit crisper and perhaps the roasted garlic could have done with a blanching to smooth its hard edges but otherwise it was a dish that made me wonder why I don’t choose fish more often (Answer. It’s either not fresh enough or cooked poorly. The margin for error is much greater with meat).
Puds don’t hold much interest for me unless they begin with the letters I and C but the two deconstructions we had were pleasant enough. Of the two I preferred HS’s Walnut Whip – a little in-joke referencing something Ken Livingstone said about the cost of the Olympics – with a nice parfait and some little chocolate bombe things.
Mine was a deconstructed “East End Mess” although the reference flew like Tessa Sanderson’s javelin, right over my head. Puns aside, they both had the qualities I value in desserts being light and not too sweet.
With a bottle of Sparkling Chapel Down Rose the bill was well north of a ton but the blow was softened somewhat by the quality of the ingredients and the fine cooking although dodging the hoodies and pitbulls on the way home was chucked in for nowt.
Anyway, back to those 2012 London Olympics. I now think those French weren’t really crying into their mouchoirs but using them to stifle the giggles brought on by the knowledge that they’d managed to land Les Rosbifs with what is potentially a huge L'Eléphant Blanc. Two words for you: “The” and “Dome”.