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Tramshed - review

Drew Smith gets off his trolley at Mark Hix's new Tramshed in London

Published on May 31st 2012.

Tramshed - review

TRAMSHED is a statement restaurant…like Chicago Rib Shack was, like MeatLiqour is.

It is all chicken and beef and Brit art. It is chicken and chips for £66, albeit we drank two glasses of  Prosecco and a pitcher of rose.

The main event are the chickens – which come out spectacularly speared vertically on special bowls, dripping into a tray

There are a few delicious asides to the story here. It is opposite the Rivington Grill which Mark Hix also set up, the skinny man’s version of the Ivy (which he also set up), and often just as good, for his ex-boss Richard Carling.

The backwall still has Tracey Emin’s first stab at neon art with the moniker 'Life Without…' the neon being something Hix has taken on his travels ever since. It is here again over the basement as 'Cock and Bull'. We are now into his eighth trading restaurant, the danger is he has spread himself a bit thin.

Tramshed salmonTramshed salmon

And then we have the art itself principally here dominated - i.e. hanging over your head in the middle of the ceiling -  by a Damien Hirst tank of formaldehyde and the carcass of a chicken riding a bull, Sarah Lucas emblematic chicken knickers are on the staff T shirts and there is a loony toons technicolour thing on the back mezzanine (and more downstairs). I am not a great one for taxidermy, especially with my food.  The best is a portrait (main pic above) by Hirst of a blindfold Hix himself entitled Fragile.

Tramshed main roomTramshed main room

Hirst’s forays into restaurants have not altogether been a success. First there was the Pharmacy with Mathew Freud in a fake dispensary in an area of Notting Hill that perhaps needed a real one. It is now a Marks and Spencer. Then there was the episode at Quo Vadis where Marco Pierre White reputedly got one of his sous chefs to replicate the famous spot pictures. Ended in tears. 

What was needed here was the diamond encrusted head – or an imitation one because there are tea leaves around here - not a reprise of an old now cliche’d idea.

A good idea in Grimsby you might think but not absolutely necessary here in cool downtown Shoreditch unless you are going the whole way and filling the spacious tiled walls with cutting edge innovations which would be welcome but currently would be an overstatement. So we have a theme restaurant with only half a theme. The artists of Viner Street need to come to the rescue.

Part of the anomaly, is Shoreditch itself which suggest fashionable, but getting down to the nitty gritty this is essentially a fast food trolley that could roll out to Birmingham, Manchester. I might even say a motorway service station if you take out the excellent wine lists, cocktails and art.

Less than a week into operations is a little unfair to be overly critical but there are elements here that have not so far gelled and in such an amphitheatre of space the atmosphere invites gladiatorial remarks.

Let us get the really bad bit out of the way first -  the cold Yorkshire pudding was big, the sides brittle, the bottom soft and beside it was a tub of so called ‘whipped’ (sic) chicken livers which is the same recipe you might find on the side of the tub in Sainsbury’s. That was a 1/10. Yorkshire pudding with gravy now – of which they have a lot – might be a showstopper, with pate it is a no show. No bread was on the menu but on request some arrived...

Tramshed bad YorkshireTramshed bad Yorkshire

You can have three starters for £8 which seems value but are small for a mess of beetroot on which curd is tossed and De Beauvoir smoked salmon - that is a few blocks away - with fennel, radish and lemon.

The main event are the chickens – which come out spectacularly speared vertically on special bowls, dripping into a tray together with big bowls of string chips. Full marks for presentation. The chickens are from Woolley Park, the aged beef from Glenarm (at £80 a kilo).

Tramshed chickenTramshed chicken

We shared a poussin for one, to carve ourselves. It went well with the bearnaise when we asked for it. No vegetables. The Hix chicken retains its claws clenched in death, in art, emblematic, inedible still scratching as it were for life. Not totally perhaps gustatory.

And in a topical take on the Great Pasty row, the chicken  is in fact cooling down, settling, like a loaf of bread and so theoretically, but probably not realistically, not VAT-able because this is not Tesco. In fact two of the three starters were cold food too, so perhaps they too could make a case to untangle our incomprehensible flawed tax laws?

Tramshed clawsTramshed - the well manicured claws

We skipped the strawberries and cream (non VAT-able?) and Ronnie’s apple pie (Vat-able?) in the interests of financial sanity.

A nice touch, kids are free 4-6 in the day and weekends, but this being Shoreditch, maybe there are not too many children about…there is a take-out menu too which is cheaper, but not as cheap as the corner kebab shop.

Tramshed dinersTramshed diners

In the end, despite everyone being really nice, I could not avoid a feeling of distaste about rich artists, rich farmers, rich backers suaving around the gossip columns while migrant workers sweat by rote to a formula, but that is fast food, I guess.

Plenty of art, no soul. No patron. A statement for sure but about what? I wanted more restaurant, and less art. Or more of both.

Tramshed 32 Rivington Street, EC2A 3LX

0207 749 0478 

Rating: 13/20
Food: 6/10
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 4/5

Tramshed beetrootTramshed beetroot

Tramshed salesTramshed sales

Tramshed takeawayTramshed takeaway

Tramshed outsideTramshed outside

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Matthew LeesJune 3rd 2012.

Is it just me or does that chicken's arse look like a monkey?

GordoJune 3rd 2012.

Great piece this Drew, a bit of common sense. The bloggerati down there will be wetting their knickers, the lads included.

AnonymousJune 4th 2012.

'migrant workers' you would say that in Manchester

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