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Formans

Stour Road, Fish Island, Tower Hamlets, London, England, E3 2NT, United Kingdom

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Forman & Sons is a salmon smokery dating back to 1905, and its products such as London cure smoked salmon are used in plenty of London restaurants. Forman’s has now added a sit-down restaurant of its own with a bar and dining room that looks out on to the new Olympic stadium across a canal, in an area of London an estate agent might optimistically describe as up and coming.

There was a short wine list with a choice of champagne or a few British wines. The excellent Billecart-Salmon Brut champagne was priced at a fair £55 a bottle compared to a retail price of £30, while Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2006 was £43 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for £23. Three Choirs Coleridge Hill 2009 was listed at £22 for a wine you can pick up in a shop for around £6.50 while Chapel Down Pinot Noir 2009 was £27 for a wine that retails for around £10. For those wishing to splash out there was Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Elizabeth Salmon Rosé 2000 for £225 compared to a shop price of £100.

The dining room is smart, modern and airy, and as well as the smoked salmon a variety of British dishes are offered. Fillet of salmon and tuna tataki (£8.50) was fish simply seared and nicely presented with a little wasabi sauce and micro-leaves as garnish. A very simple dish, done well (13/20). Smoked salmon on home-made blinis comes in either the regular London cure (£10) or, at least at this time of year, with wild salmon at £19.50 per portion. The blinis were fine and this is a tricky dish to score as of course the kitchen has barely intervened here, just serving the smoked salmon. Both versions were good, but I much preferred the taste of the wild salmon, which has a pale pink colour rather than the lurid pink of the farmed version. I have to say that I still prefer the smoked salmon produced on the roof of the Mall Tavern in Kensington. Bread was a solitary choice of black bread, bought in from a Jewish bakery called Rinkoffs in Whitechapel.

The meal went downhill with the arrival of the main course. Dover sole (£23) was served as a fillet rather than on the bone, and arrived visibly overcooked and whose texture was so rubbery it was difficult to cut (10/20). I gave up on this and switched to a haddock fishcake (priced at £12.50) that was decent enough, though the haddock flavour could have come through more strongly (11/20). I also tasted some poor red cabbage (over acidic, overcooked) in a pork dish.

A dessert of upside-down caramelised apple with crème anglaise had rather soggy apple but there was some decent caramelisation, and the custard was fine (maybe 12/20).  Service was pleasant, fairly efficient and friendly. The bill, with two glasses of wine/champagne per person, was a hardly cheap £49 a head for lunch, even with one main course not charged for. There was also a cover charge of £2 per person, for no discernible reason; the cover charge is a practice I had hoped had died out in London restaurants.

It seemed here that the trick was to choose dishes with the least intervention from the kitchen (the seared fish, the smoked salmon), as the Dover sole and cabbage were downright bad. Although this is an interesting setting for a restaurant it is hard to recommend it given the inconsistency of the cooking.

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