Tuesday, 29 May 2012
The Tramshed, Shoreditch
How hard is it to make a Yorkshire pudding? It must be fiendishly difficult because I've yet to find one in London worth eating in nearly a decade of trying, and I've tried at some fairly expensive places. My grandma, back in the day, used to make a brilliant Yorkshire pudding, so I can only assume she was some kind of undercover culinary genius and was holding secret gastronomic masterclasses in between watching Countdown and checking her pools numbers. If the only Yorkshire pudding I've ever had in my life that was any good was cooked by an octogenarian in a small kitchen in Maghull then what's everyone else's excuse? My grandma is a better chef than most in London. That's the only explanation.
OK so yes, I am being facetious, I admit it. But come on guys, it's fried batter. If you can't make a good Yorkshire pudding then firstly you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself but more importantly, don't even try. And how to tell when you can't make a good Yorkshire pudding? Easy. It may be one of the following - cold, chewy, dry, tasteless and bready. Or, it will be all of these at once, like the Yorkshire pudding I had at the Tramshed last night.
It came with a teeny bowl of the fancy-sounding "whipped chicken livers" but which was actually a very ordinary and slightly bitter chicken liver pate, and one that had been left hanging around for a bit as well because it had started to discolour on the outside. Also as part of the trio of starters was a couple of thin slices of very ordinary smoked salmon topped with remarkably bland shaved fennel, and a plate of underseasoned beetroot puree with a few roast walnuts and boiled beets scattered on top. It is both my privilege and my curse as a food blogger that I can point to other restaurants that do most of the above much better, but perhaps it's unfair to compare. For £8 a head it was an interesting selection of starters, at least on paper; it was just a shame none of it tasted very good.
A 250g steak - there was no choice offered of cut, just "sirloin" so I don't know what happens to the rest of the cow - was actually pretty good. I liked the charcoal-char on the outside and it was nicely medium rare, so it just about justified the £20. Chicken though was bizarre, and I don't just mean the way it was served on a spike with its legs in the air. The flavour was incredibly chicken-y. That sounds like a good thing, but let me explain. It was far too chicken-y. Suspiciously chicken-y. A kind of super-concentrated stock-cube chicken flavour, chemically powerful and deeply unnerving. The same flavour infested the chips, which were nicely fried but had been treated, so we were told, in the "chicken dripping". "These taste," said my friend after chewing thoughtfully on one for a few moments, "like Walkers Roast Chicken flavour crisps". I'm not accusing the Tramshed of using stock cubes or artificial flavours of any kind, it just really, really tasted like they had.
Desserts were less troubling, but no better than the starters. A chocolate mousse was a one-dimensional lump of whipped chocolate and fine only in the sense that there aren't very many reasons why you wouldn't want to eat some chocolate. Apple pie and custard was equally uninspiring - the best you could say about it was that it was edible, so it did get eaten. But I wouldn't want to do it again.
Perhaps Mark Hix gaffs just aren't for me. I know he has his fans, and indeed a few people responded to my tweet about the disastrous Yorkshire pudding that theirs had been fine. Maybe some people would like their chickens to taste like they'd been dipped in a vat of Knorr as well, or their fries to taste like something from a packet. Maybe these places are more about the attitude, the atmosphere and the buzz than anything that ends up on a plate. But we honestly didn't enjoy ourselves at the Tramshed, and though that may have partially been due to the fact the room was baking hot (there's no air conditioning, and only a few lucky tables have fans directed towards them) mainly it was because most of what we ate veered between boring and bizarre and managed to cost £88 with only 3 glasses of wine. And for all those reasons, not least the terrible Yorkshire pudding, I don't think I'll be back.