Mark Hix returns to his trendy Shoreditch roots to create an – ultimately rather conventional – steak (and chicken) house, in an impressive post-industrial space.
Mark Hix made his name at the Caprice group, and then set up on his own. The first of his solo ventures was the Rivington, the opening of which was all part of the early-days trendification of Shoreditch. After a number of openings elsewhere, often in more conventionally fashionable parts of town, he’s now gone full circle. His latest, and largest, venture is a 150-seater which, when we finally discovered it, turned out to be right next door to the Rivington.
This soaring post-Industrial space is one to which the adjective ‘New Yorkish’ will inevitably be applied, but there are London precedents, most obviously Wapping Food. This Shoreditch space – while a little less striking – is undoubtedly more suited to conversion into a great dining chamber. Just as at Wapping, there is art here, with a gallery in the basement, and a centrepiece – or is it an altar? – of an elevated Hirst cow in formaldehyde. (Hix, famously, is a mate of the YBAs.)
Choice is not much in evidence. At the starter level, you might initially get the impression that you can select one of three starters but you can’t; the three come yoked together as a selection, and a rather odd one at that: shaved asparagus with cheddar, an individual Yorkshire pudding and a smoked salmon tartine. The result was indeed strange, but not unpleasant.
The main courses are, by contrast, entirely conventional. It turns out that the cow – surmounted by a rooster – had meaning, as the menu is essentially steak or chicken.
Chickens come roasted, ideally, for sharing. Study of the one ordered on the next table – easy, as the tables are very close – suggested they are succulent creatures. Our own choice was steak ‘n’ chips, which came with a decent Béarnaise, followed by apple pie ‘n’ custard, and a coffee.
The level of consistency was impressive: everything was good, nothing excelled. This is the sort of simple food realised well enough to be part of a fun overall experience, but which could be a bit of a let-down if seen as the whole point of a visit.
From the restaurateur’s point of view that may be – commercially speaking – a ‘sweet spot’ that’s well worth inhabiting. Indeed, we left wondering if Tramshed – for all its seeming aching hipness – isn’t really just a Berni Inn* for the 21st century. More Tramsheds on the way? We wouldn’t really be surprised.
* Those who never dined out in Britain in the 1970s or 1980s, may need to know that this chain of steakhouses is often seen as emblematic of that era. Often sneered at nowadays, they were – in our necessarily distant recollection – pretty decent by the standards of the time.
Photograph by Damien Hirst