The real-estate bust hit London as well as the US, and a byproduct of this was the “Pop up restaurant”. Basically a temporary restaurant, you find some cheap and available retail space (or another restaurant), set up a kitchen and a dining area, select a limited menu, and run a restaurant as a temporary endeavour, without all the overhead costs.
One example of this is “The Dock” off Portobello road. The Dock started as a popup restaurant for the London Design Festival, in space used by design Tom Dixon, the concept worked well enough that it’s more-or-less permanent now.
But since the area wasn’t really set up as a restaurant, it’s still a bit of a weird experience. For example, it’s by reservation only, and to even get to the restaurant, you have to go to a metal gate on Ladbroke Grove and get buzzed in, like you are going to a speakeasy or something (did they have “speakeasies” in England?).
Once we got inside, however, the space was rather pleasant, with nice tall windows, wood floors, and an overall “copper” motif for the dining area, with these large copper-colored plastic spheres everywhere (which at one point in the evening I caused a mild stir by toppling a pile of them, much like the sitcom scene where someone topples the pile of cans in the grocery store).
Foodwise, The Dock came out of the starting gate pretty nicely, with some very nice herbed Lebanese-style flatbread served with yogurt and some interesting middle-eastern pickles made from peppers and some oddly long and thing cucumbers. This was followed up by a rather nice rice pilau featuring several interesting ingredients, including chanterelles, herbs, and black cumin. This is one of those dishes that I’m not sure even a photo blog can really captures, since the dish itself outwardly resembled floor sweepings, but was actually one of the more enjoyable rice dishes I’ve had in recent history (including the week before in Spain). Despite the fairly rugged nature of the dish, it was quite pleasant.
My main course was was a nicely roasted grouse, served up with a very light glaze and dusted with some salt and rosemary. The grouse itself was very flavorful and perfectly roasted, with a nice gamey note to it that might be a bit more than most people are comfortable with, but was just the kind of flavor I was looking for. The glaze nicely complemented the gamey, slightly bitter notes of the meat. While not necessarily what everyone would like in a roasted bird, I rather enjoyed this, and it showed that the kitchen staff at The Dock was capable of doing a good job with game. Served up with a side of perfectly done lentils and nicely braised chard, I thoroughly enjoyed the dish.
Dessert was a Damson Plum cobbler, which was nicely cooked, not overly sweet, and nicely presented for the entire table. Only downside was avoiding the plentiful stones.
All-in-all, I rather liked The Dock, and am pleasantly pleased to see what started as a temporary restaurant is well on it’s way to being a good, permanent dining establishment. Hopefully they will soon get rid of the semi-industrial nature of the place (parts of the building are unfinished), and the rather odd access (“We’re the locked gate across the road from the seedy pub!”).