Dock Kitchen is a restaurant living the dream. Stevie Parle initially started it as a popup with the vaunted designer-furniture magnate Tom Dixon, eventually creating a permanent restaurant with a constantly rotating menu. It’s a very impressive space within the dock development overlooking the canal, and is unsurprisingly decked out in a cornucopia of Dixon lamps and trinkets. In the now much trendy Kensal Green area, it was buzzy and full on a Friday evening at 9pm with media types, tables are apparently hard to come by.
As well as an a la carte menu, they offer a themed tasting menu which this month has been inspired by Turkey (although strangely the menu says it was only a “short” trip by Stevie and Eliot). We opted for that, a Turkish feast as it was billed by our waitress, for £65 including 3 glasses of wine. It was served meze style with lots of sharing plates. First up was a plate of 3 huge flatbreads topped with spices and oil. They looked very thin with a crunchy exterior but were still soft in the middle, very nice. When we started the food proper, we were brought another 3 of them but I wasn’t complaining. 3 “dips” next, on the left was civezli biber. A new one to me, it was a walnut and pepper based sauce with a slight mild pistou like flavour, great with the bread. Smoked wheat and yogurt topped with pomegranate was very garlicky. Tahini, by itself, was thick but went well enough. The overall effect was a bit drying and acidic on the tongue with the 3 dips though.
Served at the same time were some small vine leaves stuffed with wheat and chicken livers. I love chicken livers, but the combination with a bitter vine leaf didn’t convince me, they were very thinly filled as well and mainly vine. Aubergine, labne and tomato was my favourite of the selection with soft aubergine, sharp labne and rich tomato. Very tasty. The last to be served in this round was the clear loser at the table, a radish, walnut and herb salad. Looking very red (from beetroot perhaps) it was unpleasantly bitter and the combination of hard radish chunks and walnut dried the mouth. We barely finished a third of it.
Before the mains we were brought another dish, a wild mushroom manti with yogurt and chilli butter. Interestingly reminiscent of the delicious Mantu at the Afghan restaurant Araiana II, unfortunately nowhere near as good. Somewhat a cross between dumplings and filled pasta, they were small and a touch hard. The filling wasn’t particularly mushroom tasting, my wife hates mushroom and managed a few even. And the chilli yogurt sauce had no spice and was extremely (almost inedibly) salty.
The mains came shortly after as sharing platters. One large plate was filled with some roasted quinces, each filled with a topping of nuts and lamb. Another bowl had a generous portion of heap of greens and wheat. No getting away from the fact it was inelegant, in fact I wouldn’t be that happy serving it at a dinner party. Perhaps a large supper club with a limited set of chefs, which this was starting to feel somewhat like. I was interested to see the quince, I had no idea they were that colour or size! They were quite tart (like an under ripe peach in fact) which I found a bit odd with the warming spices of the lamb. The meat was dry and lacked punch, the greens were fine. Mid-week supper territory?
And finally dessert. The above was served per 2 people. A reasonable selection of fruit with some nice fresh ripe torn figs (the best thing on the plate), some green grapes and orange segments. Bizarrely the orange was topped with thick savoury tahini, a very unpleasant combination for dessert in mine (and the rest of the table’s) opinion. The bowl had a sort of fragrant rice pudding (the exact combination escapes me). Topped with pistachios (and more of that bloody tahini) along with a sweet syrup, it was sweet and decent enough if a bit sloppy.
So, all in all, a very disappointing meal. Certainly an interesting menu that held lots of promise and provided an interesting cultural perspective on Turkish food. But crucially, failed to deliver good taste or even a basic level of refinement. As we discussed on the table, it’s quite arrogant to base a whole menu on a “brief” holiday and this came through in the balance of the dishes. If this was still a supper club I might have been more forgiving, but it was close to £90 a head in a hectic trendy restaurant. I’m intrigued to see if this menu is a blip in their repertoire but don’t fancy a trip back soon.