We were 20 minutes late for our reservation at Tramshed on Saturday but since our reservation was for 5pm, an hour which is neither lunch nor dinner, I didn’t think to mention it when we gave our name to the hostess. That’s why I was surprised when the blond amazon woman receptionist with frizzy hair made a big fuss; flipping back and forth through stapled papers, scrolling up and down on the computer screen – like I was a George Costanza claiming to be on the guest list at a lady Gaga concert.
“Oh there you are! Your reservation was at 5.” She bristled. “You are half an hour late!”
“Well now I am.” I wanted to say because you’ve been wasting my time for 10 minutes.
“I just want to inform you that we will probably need the table back in one hour and 10 min. We might not but just so you know.” I wanted to remind her that this is no longer February 2007 (boom) but rather June 2012 (bust) and that on behalf of her employers she should smile and thank me for my custom but I channeled my inner Yoda and simply look at her blankly. Humor me and let me explore this inane statement for a minute. Because by trying to bully the customer, even one that is 20 minutes late, two things are guaranteed. First, the customer knowing that he will be “maybe, perhaps, possibly’ forcibly evicted when some kitchen timer behind the hostesses desk goes *ping*, doesn’t order a bottle of wine. Second, they skip any side dishes and desserts because to get through starters and a main course in an hour in unrealistic let alone side dishes and dessert. The last thing the offended customer wants to do is pander to the bully receptionist by asking “Do you think I have time to order dessert and give you more of my money?”
Meaning that she may have made her point but the restaurant has lost out on all their margins, since everyone knows those come from drinks, desserts and side dishes.I am sure that Mark Hix didn’t open 8 restaurants in 5 years, pen 9 books and commission a special Damien Hirst installation and use Jake and Dino Chapman “Insult to Injury” wallpaper just so the customer could be put off their dinner within the first seconds of entering his restaurant. And what a restaurant? Housed in an enormous building that used to generate electricity for the Tramway System (hence the name). As if the room was not dramatic enough, suspended in the middle, high above the heads of the dining customers is a cow with a cockerel on its back, preserved in a large tank of formaldehyde. Kooky short hand for what you will be eating that night. The behemoth bar that runs the long length of one of the walls serves as a starters station and cocktail bar and I think this is the first time I have seen a piece of restaurant carpentry of this magnitude outside the US. The menu is a study in minimalism. There are 3 starters to share; Yorkshire pud (sadly without the chicken liver pate that all the critics have been swooning over), some house cured salmon and some exceedingly sweet peas. For the mains, there are two choices; steak or chicken. After seeing upended roast chickens, claws intact, being carried around the restaurant – we know that is what we want. It comes with a generous side of fries which are fried off in chicken fat and are the high point of the meal for me. Fatty, salty, crispy generally the adjectives I find to be the tastiest.I find the chicken to be…a little bit bland. It’s under-seasoned, the breast meat is dry and the skin has already gone flabby. Crispy skin is one of my major motivations for eating chicken. Also plain chicken even if it is from the exclusive Woolley Park farm is so plain (but also quintessentially English), the middle eastern in me hankers after some robust spices, some lemon or olives – the eastern european in me looks for the garlic sauce and the pickled vegetables. But no – simple and un-embellished is the order of the day at Tramshed (except of course when it comes to decor). The only thing with that is there is nowhere to hide, so it has to be perfect.
We didn’t order dessert, for reasons that are no doubt evident from my opening diatribe.
32 Rivington Street
t. 020 7749 0478