I was very excited to recently be invited to a preview night of Dock Kitchen’s new Korean menu, which will be hosted at this wonderfully-styled venue for three weeks from 3rd February. Not only was I delighted to be coming down to finally experience this fantastic local restaurant, but I was rather intrigued by the Korean concoctions I’d be tasting on the night, with assorted starters, mains and dessert all on the menu.
As many of you know, Stevie Parle is owner and head-chef of Dock Kitchen which – alongside its regular menu – features a fixed option that changes every three weeks. Winner of the Observer Young Chef Of The Year award and the youngest ever chef employed at the River Cafe, he regularly fuses global influences with home style cooking at Dock Kitchen. Inspired by trips abroad by Stevie or one of his crew, previous fixed menus in recent months have featured the tastes of Italy and the Catalan region, although these menus – always seasonal – can also be based around a book, idea, or anything else that grabs their fancy! As well as offering diners the chance to try some exciting new dishes, it’s also a way for Dock Kitchen try out some new techniques, ingredients or even kitchen equipment – such as the coconut grinder and pestle and mortar brought back from another trip to Sri Lanka.
February is Korea’s turn – just in time to coincide with one of the hot new food trends in London for 2014. With Stevie only returning from South Korea last week, this menu was – almost literally – hot off the presses, and presented and tried for the first time on Wednesday evening.
After a delicious and ridiculously easy-to-drink Soju SoHigh as a pre-dinner cocktail, we sat to be served a selection of ‘snacks’ as a starter – raw beef, pear, egg yolk and sesame oil (a Korean-style steak tartare); seaweed salad; and fried rice cakes with Gochuchang, a chilli bean paste. Having never tried steak tartare before, I was even more eager to try this version – which turned out to be wonderfully smooth and served well with the pear accompaniment. The fried rice cakes were fantastically more-ish smothered in their spicy sauce, and I listened in eagerly as a dinner table guest recounted the different ways that this kind of extremely popular snack is served in Korea.
On to the proper first course, and something rather adventurous – raw urchin served with warm rice, aged soy and seaweed. The urchin ‘bowls’ came out wonderfully presented on a large central plate (see below) for everyone to help themselves, specifically to pour the urchin out onto the bowls of rice. This is possibly one of the most unusual items I’ve ever eaten, with an interesting texture and taste – but it’s well worth trying!
Our second course was another exciting assortment of mains and sides – grilled onglet (honestly, cooked to perfection), steamed pork belly and oysters, with accompanying sides of more Gochuchang and another condiment, Saamjang; both English and green kimchi, as well as fermented squid; and tiny dried anchovies. Essentially, the point is to construct your own main amongst these different items, mixing together the different meats and oysters with the sides and sauces and wrapping them up into leaves (Italian and English, and sesame leaves which turned out to be a winner) to eat with your hands. It’s a great of trying out these different items individually, as well as trying out assorted combinations – and with such mouth-watering mains and well-prepared kimchi, it’s easy to come up with some rather exquisite options.
An unusual but certainly very flavoursome post main offering of dried mullet roe and radish came before the dessert was served – yuzu ice cream and black sesame snaps. As yuzu is a kind of grapefruit, the ice cream had a light touch and was very complimented by the amazing black sesame snaps. And, as if we hadn’t tried enough fantastic new delicacies, the night was suitably rounded off by a sweet Jujube tea.
I’d highly recommend you take yourselves down to Dock Kitchen in February to try out their superb Korean menu. With a supreme mix of flavours and textures – many of which may well be new to you – it’s a very welcome way of trying out a number of Korean and Korean-inspired delicacies, and the sharing element means it’s a perfect meal for a group of friends. Just be warned – you’ll be leaving with very full (although content) bellies.
Dock Kitchen’s Korean-themed menu will run from 3rd to 22nd February, priced at £45 per person. You can also take advantage of a special three-course version of this menu – plus a glass of wine – on the three Mondays during this period for just £24.50.
Please call Dock Kitchen direct on 020 8962 1610 to book, or visit them online at www.dockkitchen.co.uk.
342-344 Ladbroke Grove