Saturday, 3 July 2010

Designer water...Portobello style

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.

Do you?


Jan said...

It's a festival that has passed me by - but thanks for sharing.
That looked like an event worth attending.
Really, too too much going on at present!

Profoundly Superficial said...

The food looks absolutely mouth-watering!!! You lucky thing for being there. Is the gentleman behind the menu Mister ShopCurious?

Jill said...

I've never heard of "freekah"...I'm curious.

Susan said...

Agree Jan, it's a crazy time of year..

So Annie, you're curious about Mister ShopCurious - Are you?

Jill, I hadn't heard of it either. Quite a simple dish, but what a curiously cool name and rather ancient and exotic origins too - trust you to be curious!

Leah said...

The food look so so good! Yum!

Style Porn said...

Ahaa! The glow in the dark goldfish necklace is so cool! How could you NOT have worn it to this event? At any rate, the food looks fantastic.

worm said...

great report! Its strange what an effect that living next to water has on people! Why does it lift our spirits - even if the water involved is a stretch of brown canal?

ps. the freekeh looks great - smoke toasted cracked wheat - I need to try me some!!!

pps. agree on the crayfish - too much crust and not enough acean.

atelier said...

really interesting article. I am currently doing a travel magazine for my final project and I'd like to do an architecture review of London, do you know any cool architects you could recommend me to look at? or maybe interview? thanks a lot!

Susan said...

Atelier, I would start by googling architecture blogs. There are also online directories of blogs by architects - you can see which are based in London and perhaps check out their work/style at the same time.

Boreal Water said...

Water seems to be at the center of everything the article. Keep it up!