Sometimes coincidence has a habit of making you smile.
And it seemed like a wonderful piece of happenstance that I was mired halfway through Herman Melville’s magnum opus, ’Moby Dick’ the same week that I was due to visit Platterform’s newest extravaganza – the nautically-themed ‘Sea Adventure Series.’
Ensconced within their new home on the roof of the Hothouse, Hackney, the white-washed staircase leads upwards into a carefully adorned, thoughtfully designed space that does its absolute best to make you feel out at sea.
For this leg of Platterform’s voyage, we found ourselves at full steam through the Northwest Passage. With this stop in port labelled as ‘Made in Mist’, our rations and supplements are supplied by the venerate galley commandants of Yorkston Smoke House. On arrival we’re swiftly bustled off by the proprietor; Julian, who enthusiastically showcases his cold-smoker, housed in a repurposed wardrobe out on the “ship’s” deck.
Resembling less of a taciturn Captain Ahab, and more of a gleeful Jack Sparrow, Julian swiftly wraps into the bosom of the venue. Projectors drape the walls with the fresco of an old 1800s steamship that makes you feel as if you’re just pulling out of Nantucket, waiting for the waves to wrap around you. A few slightly gimmicky, but comforting pieces of salt-water paraphernalia hung in rickety fashion around the mocked up galley, a nice touch being a wide selection of board games, including party piece ‘Battleshots’ for the brave; I’ll allow you to fill in the hits and misses. Comfortable, weathered leather seats with generously supplied blankets gave the entire venue a cosy, inclusive feel, complimented by the warmth of the staff themselves.
A towering dreadlocked pirate delivered our drinks; my partner chooses to sample the Python-tribute “A Fish Called Wonder”, a gin-based cocktail with a lovely, tart bite, thoughtfully adorned with a hibiscus anemone, while I contented myself with the “Zissou Sour”, a pungent twist on an old classic made with mescal, absinthe, manzanilla sherry and topped with a frothy helmet of sea salt foam.
After a brief debacle with a telescope and a fervent discussion with our looming privateer as to the correct shanty for our secondary round of grog, the first course is hauled up from the bowels of the ship and presented to us. The centrepiece is the alder and sweet chestnut smoked salmon, with an errant crew of pickled beetroot, three hefty chunks of soda bread and a pat of dill butter in support. The somewhat frigid temperatures of our mid-February visit leaves the butter somewhat too hard to spread, but that did little to diminish the salmon, whose quality shines through on its own. Sweet, delicate, melt in the mouth, it is everything that you could expect from an artisanal version of a classic delicacy, the smooth flavour of the wood counterpointed by the sharp taste of the beetroot accompaniment. The highlight of the course however, requires brief clarification from the waiter as to whether it is edible or not. Balanced delicately atop the presented vessel was a thin, wavering slice of salmon crackling. Crisped to perfection, and decadently salted, it provided a perfect counterpoint to the strong taste of the salmon and beetroot, and was an unexpected treat.
The cold smoked mackerel proved to be another treat. Line-caught, beautifully charred over chestnut coals, the initial flavour hit was almost overwhelming. Not a dish for the faint of heart, the potent, smoky flavour is tempered and held to starboard by an armada of garnishes. Pickled red onion is not an unusual accompaniment, but the real admiral of the fleet proves to be the creative mustard seed caviar. Providing a counterpoint to the salty-smoky roundhouse of the fish, it keeps my palate tingling.
The second helping of warming naval rations arrives with suitable fanfare. Our tri-corn hatted friend lumbers back, bearing our drinks and the skull of his father shoved haphazardly beneath his arm, and thrusts the aptly named “Cabin Fever” into my hands. A sort of Hot Toddy version of a Dark ‘N’ Stormy, the sharp addition of bitters and the ginger ale reduction immediately shot through my stomach. After a brief discussion with my partner, we agree that this liquid brigand is obviously considering mutiny, and has to be dealt with swiftly. Walking the proverbial plank into my stomach seems the only acceptable course of action at this point.
After a brief swabbing of the table from the deckhands, the third course is brought forth. A towering pile of rope-grown mussels, doused in a fiery, bloody mary sauce with a hunk of golden, crusty bread. Perfectly tender, they lack the rubbery texture that often characterises a poorly cooked mollusc, giving just enough resistance that sinking your teeth into them felt like a triumph. The supplied sauce is good enough that I mop up every last drop.
Given what precedes it, the arrival of the dessert is sadly a little disappointing. A hefty slab of Crottin cheese – a famous goat cheese from the Loire valley – was smoked, smeared with heather honey, bottled between two thick, mealy oatcakes and topped with a swirl of caramelised onion. Whilst the first bite is rich and flavoursome, I find the whole contraption difficult to consume. The oatcake and the cheese refused to crumble and form into an edible combination, making it a battle to consume. The combination of flavours is well thought-out, and cleverly continued the ‘smoked’ theme, but I find that by the time I’m halfway through I have little desire to continue, subdued by the intensity of the flavours and the stodginess of the texture.
Platterform’s Sea Adventure Series does exactly what it says on the packet; it gives you a bit of adventure with your meal. Pop-ups invariably come with an additional touch of theatre to keep you entertained, and Platterform keeps you facing into the wind and full sails ahead. The current menu continues until the 2nd of March, at which point Julian and his crew set sail for The Great Archipelago for an Indonesian sojourn. Provided they don’t try to add seasickness to the mix, you’ll find me in the crow’s nest.
For more information go to the website
words Will Squires