There’s a cracking review of our new restaurant in the Evening Standard today. It’s all very new for us so we’re delighted to get a thumbs up for just about everything on the menu that night. If you’d like to book a table please call 0208 5252 365.
The review is as follows:
Olympic hope for an old Eastender’s restaurant
By David Sexton, 10.09.09
I have yet to meet a single Londoner who is genuinely pleased that we are staging the 2012 Olympics.
For most of us, the project just means irritation and taxes. For the venerable firm of fish-smokers, H Forman & Son, established in the East End in 1905, the successful bid meant rather more. Its factory, on the site of the main stadium, was compulsorily purchased for demolition.
Lance Forman, the fourth generation in his family to head the firm, fought a four-year battle against the Olympic authorities to get proper compensation and a suitable alternative site. The day before he was due to cross-examine Lord Coe at the public inquiry, a deal was finally struck, resulting in the construction of Forman’s impressive new factory in Hackney Wick.
The new Forman HQ was built in just eight months, and was opened this January by Boris Johnson. It is a prominent, rather endearing, construction, having been modelled on the shape of a darne — a fillet piece — of salmon and painted pink. Moreover, the building looks directly over the River Lea (or a canal-like section of it) towards the Olympic Stadium itself.
Forman has capitalised on this position by creating a glamorous function room, with one wall all glass, looking over the water to the 2012 site — and putting next to it a fairly small and expensive restaurant, enjoying the same view, with a balcony, ideal for raising towards the monstrosity un verre or a finger, according to taste.
At the moment, the restaurant is open only by prior appointment, since the whole area remains a building site. Forman’s hope must be that in due course the Olympic moguls will be doing temselves proud here on exes.
The executive chef is Lloyd Hardwick, Roux-trained, who also oversees the prepared food sold by Forman’s new company, Forman & Field. Eventually, the menu will go big on serving Forman’s entire range of smoked and cured salmon. For now, though, there’s a short list of four starters and four mains.
“London-Cure Smoked Scottish Salmon” (£10) is quite different from Scottish smoked: much milder, less salty and smokey, best eaten as fresh as possible. It came curled up on a large plate, surrounded by blinis, little heaps of chopped onion and capers, and a blob of sour cream decorated with a single chive — but really you need nothing else at all to appreciate what a delicacy this is, just the best thing of its kind, so silky and tender, revealing the taste of the salmon itself, rather than the smoking.
Warm smoked eel fillets (£9.50) were more robust but equally delectable, fancily raised up on a tower of warm potato salad, flecked with parsley and chive, and crowned with watercress.
Formans carries its localism to the extent of listing only English wines, alas, save for some Billecart Salmon champagne (surely not favoured because of the name?). We drank a glass of Chapel Down Brut — dry enough and fizzy but a bit short in flavour — and a Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2005, which had a lovely Alsace-style nose but then a Germanic taste, both a touch acidic and a fraction sweet, a disappointing transition often to be found with English wines. Why do we persist? We don’t have such trouble recognising we can’t produce our own bananas.
Steamed Scottish salmon (£15.50) was a handsome darne, cooked through but still moist and well-textured, served on a bed of herb-flecked mashed potato, accompanied only by a leek, carrot and celery vinaigrette. This was so simple and so good, a real display of quality fish.
“Wild Cornish Seabass, Girolle Mushroom Risotto & Broad Bean Pesto” (£19) was a more ambitious preparation. A large piece of heavily browned bass was served skin up on a garlicky risotto, full of little girolles, surrounded by blackened pine nuts, Parmesan flakes and fresh, skinned broad beans. The mushroomy aromas from this were luscious but it had all been severely overcooked.
A selection of Neal’s Yard Cheeses (£12.50) was enough not just for two people but for four, served with a nice chutney and “melba toast” — bread soldiers, not toasted dry, as the name usually indicates, but apparently fried in butter before being allowed to dry, making them too rich to enjoy.
The real piece de resistance was the “Gourmet Walnut Whip” (£8.50). In March 2007, Ken Livingstone proclaimed: “Londoners will not pay a penny more than the current 38p a week contribution on the council tax to the Olympic Games… To get the Games for the price of a Walnut Whip is a bargain.”
What the former Mayor failed to make clear was that this calculation depended on Londoner taxpayers coughing up that 38p every week non-stop for 12 years — in other words, we’re all handing over £240 each for the old hop, skip and jump whether we like it or not.
In tribute to this bit of spin, Formans invites you to enjoy the luxiest Walnut Whip you’ll ever meet. You get a glass beaker of divinely sweet and concentrated hot chocolate goo; three little balls of freezing ice-cream encased in chocolate; a crunchy twirl of crispy golden syrup and a nougat-ish mousse crowned with one caramelised walnut. Grotesquely yummy.
There was only one other party there when we went but the tables are packed in surprisingly tight and it might be quite noisy and too close for comfort when it’s busy. The room is appealing, though, plus, over the duckweed and the crisp bags floating in the canal, there is one of London’s gamiest views, the future that’s been fixed up for us, ineluctable now.
Click Here to read the review on the Evening Standard Website.