I did not think much of a cookbook as a holiday read so I started flicking through the pages while on my flight.
Two hours later, I was completely sold to Stevie’s approach to what is more than a cookbook. Is a travel book with food, is a recipe book with travel information, is a friend’s description of his passion for world cuisine, fresh ingredients, seasonality and sustainability.
Once back in London I started reading up on Stevie and found out that after a successful stint with a ‘pop up’ restaurant, he was now stable somewhere by the docks in Ladbroke Grove. I couldn’t wait to try it!
The two starters, of which the best one was a fresh indian salad with a flat bread and preserved lemons, was delicious. Light, yet rich in aromas and fresh curry leaves.
My main was a pigeon biriani, which I liked too – the rice was well cooked, the flavours well balanced. My only criticism would be the meat – there were still some bones in it! The other main was coconut crust roast cod, a large portion with a side of sweet potato and preserved lemons. Then came the dessert… it didnt sound too appealing on paper (cardamom milk) but it was simply wonderful. The milk was gently scented with the spice’s pungent aroma, the crunchy almonds added texture and the pomegranate seeds added a splash of colour. I loved it!
My starter was made with farro and was really nice although I now forget (beginner’s mistake) the details of the sauces.
The main was braised beef on a bed of chickpea mash, which was well cooked and came off the bone but maybe slightly heavy. Yet the portions were huge and generous.
For dessert, I opted for a blood orange and negroni granita, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although my husband did not fully enjoy his bread and butter pudding, which was made with panettone and was a little dry. So our second visit wasn’t as rewarding as the first one. Strangely, the service was not on a par either – maybe a night off? Stevie was not cooking that night so that might explain it.
Still, I wasn’t deterred and for my sister’s London weekend, I booked another dinner at the Dock Kitchen. On World Book Night we made our way across London again, on a cold and dreary March night.
By now, the formula has changed and a full a la carte is available together with the week’s supper club theme. Last saturday, the theme was Viareggio with sustainable fish dishes. The three of us actually opted for the a la carte dishes, choosing different things to be able to taste as much variety as we could.
For starters, myself and Rob opted for palourde clams (vongole veraci) on toast – this was pretty good and reminded me of the saute’ di vongole I usually eat back home.
Luci enjoyed a kerala inspired tomato thom, which had mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves and was delicately flavoured. We also enjoyed a starter from the Viareggio menu: a sea kale, bottarga and olive oil from southern Italy. The olive oil was very good and the kale delicately blanched, while the bottarga was fresh and added saltiness and texture to the vegetable. Mains arrived. Luci’s pork chop was huge and well cooked, tender and juicy, on a bed of gratin fennel. Rob’s curry cod with okra was good and spicy to the right level but for him, slightly undercooked.
My main of gnudi with lime and pine nut and agretti was just to die for – unreal. I had to get up and tell Stevie how good it was!
Finally the desserts. We had four different dishes to try: Nigel Slater’s lemon merengue which was fantastic, rhubarb fool which was just as good, cenci with mascarpone which reminded us of our Italian carnival dishes and rice pudding which was a huge portion of saffron risotto with blood orange. Very nice with great flavours but too big! We had to leave some.