I don’t go to restaurants to fill my stomach – I can find sustenance for that essential in the sandwich section of my local corner shop. I don’t go to restaurants to spend time with friends – I can do that any night of the week in my local pub, over a few beers.
I go to eat. More specifically, I go to eat food that is either better cooked, or better sourced – and ideally both – than anything I could rustle up at home.
So when we heard about Mark Hix’s new venture, Tramshed
, the possibilities seemed mouthwatering.
It serves only two main courses, and those two choices happen to be my all-time favourite foodstuffs: steak and chicken.
The Dads’ Dining Club met up in the bar of the plush Hoxton Hotel
beforehand, and chatted excitedly about being at the pioneering end of a new craze after reading this article
in London’s Evening Standard. It bangs on about how chicken is the Next Big Thing to sweep the foodie capital – and uses Tramshed as the poster-restaurant for this new wave.
‘If they’re confident enough to ONLY serve steak and ONLY serve chicken, then surely it’s going to be the BEST steak and BEST chicken we’ve EVER tasted?’ we drooled.
It wasn’t a disaster – far from it – but as dads with young families, we don’t get out much, and thus our dining experiences are both rare and special, and so at nearly £90 a head (the chicken was £25; the beef £80, or £20 per 250g), we all expected a clucking better standard than the one we had squawked out for!
Here, Dad-By-Dad, are our scores on the doors…
Venue – 8: Impressively spacious an outstanding ‘ice-breaking’ centrepiece – an enormous mounted Damien Hirst creation that has a cock perched atop a bull, suspended in (I presume) formaldehyde in a glass case. If you’re going here with a big group, you won’t be short of something to chat about to get the smalltalk flowing
Atmosphere – 7: I enjoyed the buzz. It was loud without being noisy. I’ve been in high-ceilinged converted warehouse-type places before and you can’t heard yourself think because of the racket. This had the right balance.
Starters – 5: Great to look at, but low in the flavour stakes. I thought the whipped chicken livers were excellent, but the Yorkshire Pudding, although well-risen, was rather doughy. The green beans and broad beans were zingy with fresh lemon, but the prawns were meagre – each had been cut in half, lengthways, and tasted like they’d just been defrosted. The mushrooms had none of the earthiness I’d expect, or any other flavours come to that.
Main – 4: I cook a better roast chicken at home – and a better steak (I may have already mentioned this). Both were visually-striking and had great ‘Woooo Factor’ when they came to the table, but I thought the meat was quite dense with a mealy texture, and the chicken was a bit
paltry, size-wise. There was little meat on the legs, and the breasts were dry, bordering on powdery. The biggest disappointment, though, was the flaccidness of the skin. If I’m going to be presented with chicken feet
, they should be as crispy as wings, but instead, they were gelatinous. And the chips? Sooooooo many oven-like chips! I thought there was supposed to be a potato shortage at the moment!
Dessert – 3: Montgomery’s Cheddar is a superb cheese, but at £6.25 for a centimetre-thick wedge is a rip-off. Marshallows and cherries dipped in a block of melted Dairy Milk had all the sophistication of an Essex girl’s 21st birthday party.
Service – 8: The waiters were friendly and attentive, without being in-your-face. The wine was cold and came with an ice bucket. The chicken legs were nicely carved at our table.
VFM – 4
Venue – 7 – The Cock and Bull is impressive but if that wasn’t there would there be anything else to talk about?
Atmosphere – 6 – Big spaces can be very loud and cold. This place wasn’t, but apart from a stream of beautiful people (most terribly dressed) through the door I didn’t really notice the other diners.
Starters – 5 – Boring, bland and stodgy. Aunt Bessie does better Yorkshire puds. ‘Exotic’ mushrooms should taste of something, even if it’s just garlic.
Main – 5 – Dry and not very tasty – good presentation though. Fries were frozen and uncannily like a fast food joint’s.
Dessert – 3 – Highly calorific and not much else.
Service – 7 – Nice, jolly, chatty. There when needed, almost. I did notice that Scott had to get their attention on more than one occasion.
VFM – 5
Venue – 7: An impressive space dominated by a Damien Hurst creation. Light and airy but uninspiring apart from the centrepiece.
Atmosphere – 5: Positioned by the door it didn’t really feel as though we were in the restaurant proper. There was a good buzz in the room though.
Starters – 4: Bland Yorkshire pudding with a delicious chicken liver pate. Nice variety of exotic mushrooms but cold and fairly tasteless. Shrimp and lettuce instantly forgettable.
Main – 4: An ok chicken leg more of a novelty with its foot still attached. Didn’t have any breast but was told it was dry. The steak was dry too and vastly inferior to the Hawksmoor. At least the English mustard was HOT.
Dessert – 5: I quite liked the marshmellow fondue as the chocolate was delicious. Cheese board consisted of a single piece of cold Westcombe cheddar for £6.25. Not good.
Service – 7: The staff were very nice but service was slow and they had to be summoned on more than one occasion. We were served by three different waiting staff over the course of the evening.
VFM – 4: The whole experience was below average and £25 for a bland chicken was too much. The wine list however had a good selection and £26 for a decent Chenin Blanc and £30 for a delicious Malbec wasn’t too onerous. First and last visit for me.
Venue – 7: I actually do think it’s a great space. Proper Victoriana, expertly restored. And the Damian Hurst is very impressive.
Atmosphere – 5: No real buzz about the place, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable either, so just average really
Starters – 4: The liver pate was nice, but the presentation was awful. I didn’t get to a eat a prawn as my greedy companions didn’t leave me with any, and the mushrooms were a bit bland.
Main – 3: If you are going to specialise in just two dishes then they need to be superb, but I was very unimpressed with the both the chicken and the steak. I’ve had far better in far less salubrious surroundings.
Dessert – 3: The Marshmallows and hot chocolate sauce was totally unmemorable and £6.25 for a triangle of cold cheddar!!?
Service – 7: I have no complaints here.
VFM – 4
TOTAL AVERAGE SCORES:
Venue – 7.25
Atmosphere – 5.5
Starters – 4.5
Main – 3.25
Dessert – 3.5
Service – 7.25
VFM – 4.25
MEAN SCORE (out of 10): 5.07