Cows and chickens have played a large part in my life recently, starting with Jason Black’s wonderful cookbook COW PIG CHICKEN. Needless to say, when, on a recent jaunt back to London, I heard about Tramshed, a restaurant specialising in solely cow and chicken (not sure what they have against poor pigs), I thought it quite a fitting choice for dinner.
Tramshed, in the heart of uber trendy Shoreditch, is the seventh restaurant opened by renowned chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix. As you may be able to gather from its name, the grade-II listed building was once an electricity generating station for trams; its toweringly high ceilings and steel arches also give testament to this. The main focal point as soon as you enter the vast restaurant, however, is the specially commissioned piece of artwork by Damien Hirst: a giant formaldehyde-filled tank containing a real cow and chicken. Just in case anyone is still unsure what this place is all about, at the back of the restaurant, a huge painting (also by Damien Hirst) of the cartoon Cow and Chicken adorns the wall of the mezzanine level.
The menu, of course, is pretty much limited to cow and chicken. The starters (designed for sharing) change on a regular basis, whilst the main courses consist of either chicken or steak (for one or to share) with a range of sides to go with either. There are of course vegetarian options if you insist on being difficult, but, generally speaking, if you don’t love a bit of chicken or steak then perhaps Tramshed just isn’t the place for you.
To begin, we couldn’t resist ordering the Yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers. Living in Hong Kong, Yorkshire puds are not something I regularly come across, which made this gloriously crispy yet doughy pud even more of a treat. Who cares if the deliciously smooth, rich chicken pate served alongside it made the whole dish even more unhealthy – it tasted wonderful and that’s surely all that matters, right?!
To chase this, we each had a shooter of pea and ham soup. Served chilled, it was refreshingly minty and light, topped with crispy pork crackling, making it the perfect prelude to the chicken and steak feast that was to come.
Wanting to make sure we tried a bit of both animals, we opted for individual portions of each. Having had pre-starters at Callooh Callay down the road before our actual starters (fatties), the individual portions stretched more than far enough to serve as sharing portions for two. Tramshed’s chickens come from the village of Goosnargh in Lancashire, where they are apparently treated and fed like royalty, resulting in “memorable poultry that really is a joy to eat.” I concur; the interestingly presented spring chicken was succulent and flavoursome without even a hint of dryness. I rarely order chicken in a restaurant, given that it is one of the easiest things to cook at home, yet I would certainly order this one again.
The Glenarm ‘Mighty Marbled’ sirloin steak was even better, however – beautifully tender, sweet and flavoursome, achieved through dry-ageing it in a Himalayan salt chamber.
Sides of Scrumpy fried onions, minted peas and broad beans, as well as the chips that came with the steak, were the perfect complement to all of the above. I’m not usually an onion ring kind of girl, yet these slightly sweet, not too heavy rings of goodness were decidedly moreish.
To finish, despite the food babies that were quickly growing inside us, we stuck to what we had already decided at the beginning of the meal: that the Cornish salted caramel fondue needed to be tasted. A cute ceramic pot of bubbling salted caramel sat atop a tealight candle, alongside fluffy homemade marshmallows and crispy doughnut chunks – yes, it was every bit as delicious and indulgent as it sounds!
Service at Tramshed was spectacular, as our friendly waiter offered us recommendations and personal tips to make every bit of our meal all the more enjoyable. One thing that mildly annoyed me, however, is the fact that a 10% service charge was automatically added to the bill – something that, unlike in HK, UK restaurants never used to do. We obviously would have been more than willing to tip generously had it been our choice, but having this choice taken away from us left a slightly sour taste. Regardless, for a satisfying meal of this calibre, washed down with a bottle of ‘Tramshed Red’, we paid £48 (approx HKD570) each, which, given how much a similar restaurant would charge in HK, wasn’t unreasonable at all. Tramshed, you really know how to make those cows and chickens of the world truly shine, thank you.*
32 Rivington Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7749 0478
*Apologies to all the food photo critics out there – I get frowned upon every time I get my Canon out in the UK, so these are quick low-light iPhone snaps that clearly do not do the food any justice!