The US election season is upon us. Americans get to choose between pachyderms and donkeys. The rest of the world looks on with a fascination normally reserved for train wrecks.
On the left we have a chap who can make a great stump speech, but has spent four years proving that he can’t manage his way out of a paper bag. On the right we have an enormously competent manager who can’t figure out what he stands for and might be hewn from wood.
Democrats by and large have a Calvinist view of the world. They buy dolls and kitchen sets for their boys, so they grow up free of gender stereotypes…and sexually confused. They wear sandals with socks, hug trees and like holding hands and singing Kumbaya. They adore European style welfare and find it sooo romantic that French unions go on strike every summer. They secretly wish America was more like France, but where the citizenry washed more often and the neighbours weren’t German.
Republicans are at heart Hobbesian. Their boys play Cowboys and Indians, preferably with real guns. They like tea parties, god and golf. They know that people join unions because they have shitty jobs that should be outsourced to some poor foreign country, so foreigners wouldn’t come to America looking for shitty work and join unions. What they really want is a sepia toned version of America with Clint Eastwood as sheriff.
I was drinking a Cock Shot (Absolut vodka, chicken consommé, spices) and wondering if I’d buy one for either presidential candidate. Romney probably would be too embarrassed to say cock and doesn’t drink anyway. Obama would raise my taxes (somewhere along the way I picked up a US passport and now can’t get rid of it without paying off the Inland Revenue Service) so I probably can’t afford to buy him a drink. The Cock Shot was served in a frozen glass, which felt good on a hot summer’s day. That was about the only good thing going for it. The Cock Shot tasted awful, slightly salty and vaguely slimy on the tongue. My female lunch companion drew the obvious analogy. I couldn’t decide whether to Ditch that Bitch (cassis and sparkling wine) or to buy her a Twitter & Bisted (pink grapefruit, Campari, sherry and sparkling wine).
In front of me was a plinth on which stood a whole cow with a rooster on it’s back – encased in a glass case filled with formaldehyde. Damien Hirst is responsible for the rooster/cow vitrine (appropriately named Cock and Bull) and all the artwork at Tramshed, the new Mark Hix restaurant in Shoreditch. The artwork signals the only two things you can order at the restaurant – chicken or steak.
The Tramshed occupies a visually stunning space. Built in 1905 as a electricity generating station for trams, it is a light, high ceilinged space with a bar on one side and a gallery at the back. There are original two-toned tiled walls and mosaic flooring. It is industrial chic where the soaring scale of the space helps it escape looking like a 1990’s cliché. I liked the feel of the place. The crowd was a mix of hipsters from Shoreditch and pin striped bankers. They all seemed to get along.
One needs to be reminded from time to time that chicken, that most ordinary of birds, can taste exceptional when cooked well. The bird is presented upside down impaled on a stake with whole clawed feet scratching the air. Vegetarians look away. Actually, don’t bother coming here if you are a vegetarian – or if you don’t like steak or chicken for that matter. There really isn’t anything else to eat, although you can apparently order something that cows might like to eat, off menu. The sirloin is nicely marbled and aged for 28 days in a Himalayan salt chamber (don’t ask). It’s delicious, but good, expensive steak is not hard to find in London these days. Order to share in 250g, 500g, 750g or 1kg portions. The tomato salad I ordered on the side was amazing. The gnarly organic tomatoes filled the mouth with moist bursts of flavor with chunks of cheddar adding a sharp counterpoint.
While the Cock Shot was disappointing the cocktail list is actually rather good. At first sip the aforementioned Twitter & Bisted (pink grapefruit, Campari, sherry and sparkling wine) tasted like a fizzy cosmopolitan. Then the nice layered complexity of a well made cocktail came in, with a hint of dry bitterness from the Campari and the smoky aftertaste of the sherry. The Temperley Sour (Somerset apple brandy, lemon juice, Bramley apple juice and egg white) has a sinuously silky texture, with the sweetness of the apple nicely offset by the tartness of the lemon juice. There’s a good selection of boutique beers and a fun selection of new world wines. Battery hen cages (the insides of which the free range chicken on the menu has never seen, although it probably doesn’t care, now that you just ate it) line the entrance, filled with off sales of wine. There is a bar menu and a well priced take away menu.
Mark Hix has opened seven restaurants in the last four years. They all have well sourced ingredients, a fresh take on British food and inventive cocktails. They’re all doing well. His friend Damien Hirst has collaborated on the artwork. Both friends are having good recessions. Hirst has done particularly well by preserving various species (including some nasty looking sharks) in formaldehyde, where we can look at them, but they can do us no harm. Perhaps its time he tried out his art form on some politicians…
London Girl About Town discusses the nearby White Cube Gallery in her review of Tramshed. The blogger Fifteen Pickles and a Purple Plum has some mouth watering images of the food at Tramshed. Whether it is bisteca alla Florentina or a bife de chorizo, there are many variants of fine steak. Here’s a good discussion on what makes a good steak restaurant from Forbes Traveller. If you are fond of lists this top ten list of the world’s best steak houses covers the big ones from Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn to Cabana Las Lilas in Buenos Aires. For steak in London I also like Hawksmoor, particularly their Seven Dials location in Covent Garden. Goodman provides a properly masculine steak experience and the Argentinian steak at Gaucho is consistently good – particularly at their rather delectable waterfront location in Richmond. Moo!