An unhappy fullness
So was pretty friggin excited about the grouse last night at The Dock Kitchen! Me and Basil had been to The Dock Kitchen before for their ‘Old Fashioned Italian’ menu and a second time for their a la carte menu. Both were tremendously memorable. They just had such great form. The venue is also cool- Kinda like East London meets West.
The night started off in their courtyard with a Sloe Gin Sour and as soon as our friends Sorrel and Sage arrived we decided to go straight to the table and get stuck in. After weighing up our option between the Glorious Grouse menu and the A la Carte we opted for the latter as the Grouse was on the a la carte anyway. Orders in, wine chosen (a red and a white, both Austrian organic bio-dynamic) we waited in anticipation for our palates to be tickled. And then my pet peeve happened. The wine arrived after the food. Now only about 30 seconds after the first course arrived when they saw no bottles on the table but still, I like to at least have had a few sips to get my palate used to the taste.
Both Basil and Sage had the Charcoal Grilled Cornish Sardines with Harissa. Both thoroughly enjoyed this dish however Basil did find the Harissa intense. In fact I think his words were ‘Jesus that’s hot!’
I had the Fattoush and was very impressed by the sumac & olive oil dressing. Really complimented all ingredients, especially the cucumber actually which I find a hard salad to dress unless you’re making a ridiculously thick dressing. Apart from that the ingredients were all so beautiful themselves that nothing else had to be added. In saying that though, I kinda wish it had as the dish just stayed at simple for me.
Dish of the first course definitely goes to Sorrel though who had the Chicken Livers cooked in seven spice with tahini, freekeh & sweet herbs. The Chicken Livers were succulent. Beautifully tender and unlike the liver from other animals truly did taste of chicken. Cooking the livers in tahini was genius as it gave the livers that ‘melt in your mouth’ sensation.
And then came the Grouse for 3 and Iberico Pork for Sage. Now I was pretty excited about this bird having never tasted it before. Safe to say I’ll never go near it again! My god my nose and my taste buds didn’t know what form of torture they were enduring! So this is how I felt – I was on a farm and I was eating their manure. The texture of the Grouse once I got past the horrid taste was wonderful, the presentation was simple, served on a slice of toast with cherries which we all thought was wrong. It definitely needed something sweeter and maybe even a sweet, thick gravy. None of us were blown away by the dish and Basil couldn’t eat the legs as the manure taste was particularly strong there. The waiter informed us that the bird had been hung for 4 days and was cleaned out just before service. I hate saying this but after my first bite I just couldn’t eat anymore but The Dock Kitchen staff were incredibly nice about it, whipped it away from me and put in an order of seabass with ragu. The seabass had a welcomed familiar flavour. A very homely dish, but no fireworks. Just like the Fattoush it was missing something to bring me back again.
Sage’s Charcoal Grilled Bellota Iberico Pork Secreto with Okra & Potatoes was beautiful. Definitely had food envy! The pig we were informed had lived on a magnificent diet so the fat had wonderful juicy flavours which complimented the slaty smokey flavours from the meat.
Feeling a little deflated in my meal so far I was delighted to hear that they had sourced Congolese Cru Virunga Chocolate for their Chocolate, Apricot and Brandy cake. The supplier was the only chocolate maker in The Congo so this was gona be some treat!! Alas after just putting in the order our waiter Mike returned to say it was finito. He felt incredibly bad about the whole situation and said to come back again, ask for him and he’d make sure we got some! So Mike, I definitely will. An afternoon coffee perhaps and some Congo chocolate cake by the river would be simply wonderful during the week.
And so to finish Sage had the Garrotxa, a goats cheese from Catalunya served very simply on a plate with a whole apple- Love it! Great value at 4 quid given its magnificent taste and size. Hard, a hint of smoke, smooth texture.
Basil had the Persian Saffron Rice Pudding with Aleppo Pistachios Rose Petals and Gold Leaf- exquisite! Rice pudding King style. The Gold Leaf gave it a beautifully sweet almost honeycomb flavour and it just slid down your throat patiently allowing you to find comfort in each individual ingredients flavour too.
Sorrel and I had the yoghurt & Pistachio Cake with a Black Fig from Provence. Uneventful. The consistency was fine but unfortunately all I got was a sour flavour, nothing else. Plus it was served with a very sour creme fraiche. And the fig could definitely have been riper. I don’t think it could have brought any magic to the dish in any case.
All in all I left feeling full but unsatisfied which really is quite unusual for The Dock Kitchen. However I will be back again as any kitchen that reinvents its menu every 2 weeks with a new theme to boot should definitely be taken seriously.
And as the waiter said “You have to try Grouse at least once in your life!” Another meal, another milestone.