The London Festival of Architecture may have passed you by, but there have been all manner of events going on in London over the past couple of weeks. One of the most memorable was hosted by Tom Dixon, who held a discussion dinner in conjunction with Blueprint Magazine at his new Dock Kitchen restaurant in Ladbroke Grove (the Kilburn end).
The theme of the talk was Water Works – A discussion of the influence of water on Britain’s architectural landscape – with speakers that included Nick Johnson of Urban Splash and Keith Brownlie of Wilkinson Eyre.
Gwyn Miles showed how the addition of a floodlit water feature, with choreographed fountains, has transformed the courtyard - formerly the Inland Revenue’s car park - of Somerset House (where she is Director) into a space that’s refreshingly serene by day and magical to observe at night.
Of course, Tom Dixon’s own studio is also on the water at Portobello Dock, along with his newly opened restaurant. And, curiously enough, the acclaimed young ex-River Café chef, Stevie Parle, also lives on a houseboat on the River Thames a couple of miles away.
The kitchen’s fare was suitably water sourced, with crisply succulent deep fried samphire as an appetizer - eaten outdoors on a perfect Summer’s evening with arty, architectural types.
Round and about was also evidence of all sorts of eco-friendly activity – everything from organic grow bags to a bamboo bicycle.
Some be-suited city folk, arriving straight from a hard day’s work in the office, chose to hide behind their menus.
Our starter of crayfish from the River Avon cooked in crazy water, looked mouthwateringly beautiful, but turned out to be the seafood equivalent of quail.
As we fiddled about searching in vain for something meaty to get our teeth into, I began to understand why the restaurant was so popular with the celebrity model set (apparently Eva Herzigova had dined here earlier in the day).
Next up was trout from the River Wye, which melted in the mouth, even though it was barely cooked. The assembled crowd wolfed it down – must have something to do with creatively open minds having an unsqueamish sense of adventure - or perhaps it’s just that lovers of contemporary design have great taste in everything?
The accompanying side dish was something called ‘freekeh’ – which, despite the freaky name, was utterly divine. The tart that followed was pretty delicious too, with Provencal cherries to die for (possibly the only ingredient that wasn’t from our shores).
The meal was nicely washed down with specially filtered water, along with popular favourites from the winelist. Needless to say, Tom is working on an inventive new purification system involving charcoal.
As night drew in, Tom’s famous lamps began to glow and unusual lighting effects began to trickle out across the canal.
I began to wish I’d worn a glow-in-the-dark goldfish necklace from ShopCurious.
I was also thinking that I could easily get used to the naturally calming effect of a waterside lifestyle – which is just as well, since I already live by the river.