The Dock Kitchen evolved from the supper club The Dock Project. It has now found a home on the Grand Union Canal, in a location that was once a Victorian cinder block recycling plant, and more recently was the canteen of Virgin Records. Young (25 year old) chef Steve Parle worked at the River Café prior to this venture. The location is striking, a wall of glass looking out over the canal, with an open kitchen (after a September 2010 refurbishment). There were no tablecloths, and there was a fashionable, vibrant feel to the dining room. The menu changes monthly, and offers virtually no choices, the theme and even the style of cuisine changing from month to month. The menu tonight was £35 for four courses, with a “Christmas” theme, this being the 1st December.
The short wine list has choices such as Ata Rangi Crimson 2008 at £38 for a wine that retails at around £14, the excellent Brunello di Montalcino Conti Constanti 2004 for a modest £60 compared to a retail price of around £40, up to Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St Jacques JC Boisset 2004 at £85 for a wine that will set you back around £42 in the shops. There was a loaf of bread on display by the kitchen, yet no bread was offered during the meal.
The meal began with devils on horseback i.e. prunes and onions wrapped in bacon, with a salad of raw Brussels sprouts with aged Parmesan artichokes a la Romana. The bacon flavour was rather subdued, though the sprouts with Parmesan worked well enough; the artichokes were of adequate quality (1/10). Next was a “Mexican salad” of fennel flavoured with orange, coriander, lime, chilli and pomegranates. The fennel was fine, the coriander rather dominant, the orange flavour subtle, and just a hint of spice from the chilli dressing (2/10).
Pheasant was roasted in pomegranate molasses and stuffed with tomato and spicy pilaf rice. This was a hint at a classic Lebanese dish, where the lamb is stuffed in this way. The rice was fine, but unfortunately the pheasant was cooked so long that it had dried out to the extent that I found it difficult to eat (0/10). I ate perhaps half of this, and when the waiter inquired about the dish and I highlighted the dryness of the meat I was told that “it was fine”. Really?
A dessert of walnut and amaretto cake for me had a little too much almond flavour and not enough walnut, was a little dry but was still perfectly edible (1/10). Coffee was almost stone-cold. Service was erratic. The charming couple on the next table to me asked the waiter to tell them more about the brill, to which the response “I have no idea, I’ll have to ask the chef” was not what one might have hoped for. The bill came to £116 for one. I should say that this involved one of the better wines, which I managed to consume on my own, but even so this to me is hardly a bargain for food that varied between ordinary and flawed. The place seemed busy (this was December) but based on this meal I am baffled by its popularity.