It's not fancy, it's not big and it's not clever, but the scrag end is delicious. For simple, honest opinions on restaurants, recipes, supper clubs and what not, you've come to the right place.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Dock Kitchen, 344 Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Docks

You know the kind of people who collect trainers? Those people who surf eBay for original Air Jordans, grow scraggy beards as soon as they are able and generally annoy everybody by being younger, thinner and so very much cooler than everyone else? They’re not quite hipsters, though they’re not dissimilar. They tend to have real jobs, normally in advertising or (well-paid) charity, and a love of tight woolly hats. You’ve probably heard them, aged 27, with their dubstep. 

The Dock Kitchen feels screamingly in love with this kind of customer. Above a fancy furniture shop? Check. On the canal? Check. In a not-particularly-but-still-a-bit edgy area? Check. A former pop-up that became permanent? Check. Pretentious, self-indulgent, haphazard menu? Check. Really good food? Um, yes.

And that’s the problem with The Dock Kitchen. Despite every cell in my body wanting to hate it - for its attractive waiting staff, its impossibly youthful team of chefs, for how pleased it is with itself - I just couldn’t.

‘Forced Scottish sea kale and agretti with bottarga’ was superb. Not just a little bit good, not just good because ambitious and unusual, but actively, challengingly excellent, all asparagus and coastline flavoured and saltily refreshing.


‘Egyptian’ garlic, roasted with thyme and served with goats curd on toast was similarly inspired. A ludicrously straightforward dish, it involved getting a long-roasted head of garlic out of the oven, drizzling it with olive oil, and spreading some curd on toast. In this instance, simplicity was a virtue. 

Main courses were less dazzling, but still pretty good. A fish stew of cod, octopus, red mullet and brown shrimp lacked a bit of oomph, despite its Vermentino and fennel. Chicken with a Persian pomegranate and walnut sauce proved a textural (though not a visual) delight, meltingly cooked with a slight crunch from the walnut. Alas, accompanying broad bean pods in tomato sauce were lukewarm and uninspiring. 

For dessert, a saffron rice pudding with blood orange combined sweet and bitter to great effect, while a Seville orange tart was competent rather than spectacular. Add a smart open kitchen, great lighting and engaging waiters to the mix, and this is a pretty winning operation, especially since they sell Paxtaran liqueur to finish. 


The kitchen seems to rely on food that requires very little cooking on the night – most dishes we ate would have been prepared earlier in the day. This allows the staff to maintain a sense of unflappable control without actually having to do all that much cooking. But you can hardly complain about a smart kitchen. After all, if there’s one thing any trainer hunter knows, it’s that it’s not cool to be seen to be putting any effort into anything.

Our a la carte meal came in at just over £40 per head for three courses with a glass of wine, a liqueur and coffee. For slightly more, you can eat the restaurant’s set menu, four or five courses that change, supperclub style, depending on the whims of the chef, or what punning title they’ve thought up this week.

The Dock Kitchen treads a fine line between making its customers feel trendy and causing them (or me, anyway) to harrumph curmudgeonly at the smugness of it all. But the food, which is always what these things come down to in the end, is good enough to pull it off.

Phil Letts’ take: 7/10

Dock Kitchen, Portobello Dock on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. seaweed and bottarga, awesome idea for combo, i have some bottarga in my cupboard, might have to break it out to combine in such a way! or maybe with a little samphire and fried fish...