Thursday, February 5, 2015

Portside Parlour, 23rd January

There aren’t too many places left in Shoreditch that I feel I need to visit (though new places do keep opening, witness: The New Philosopher from the Manero’s crew). Friday night I crossed two of the remaining four (now five!) off my list – Portside Parlour, their relatively new permanent place, and Lounge Bohemia which has been there a while.

I went to Portside Parlour when they were but a pop-up on Broadway Market. Small and dark with a naval flavour, I really liked the place and was keen to see how they’d do with bigger permanent digs. They still have a lot of rum and a well-crafted cocktail list, and maritime overtones, but now they have a tapas menu of food which is worth visiting for on its own. In fact, due to their license, you have to have at least something to eat if you want to drink. But this is no hardship.

Stephen is off the meat for the month and so he had the two fish dishes – cod cheeks and octopus. I had the pork belly with caperberry vinaigrette and chicken pastries with a sweet and sour style dip.

Stephen was completely enamoured with his octopus. He even called it a revelation, and he does not bandy about hyperbole lightly. It was cut into chunks which rather disguised what it was, and it looked very meaty. I didn’t try it but Stephen said it had this fantastic crispy outside, a great texture and flavour. I wish I’d given it a go!

The cod cheeks were also really nice, Stephen joked about ordering some more once he had done. These I did try. They came with a salsa verde and were in croquette form, a good crunch on the outside with the lovely light flesh in the middle.

My dishes were less adventurous and p’raps because of this, a little less satisfying. The chicken pastries were a bit like thin spring rolls with not that much chicken in them, and the dip wasn’t very exciting. However, the pork belly was delicious (when is it not?) I enjoyed the sweet puree it came with in its own right, and the pig was not too fatty and crisp on the top. The vinaigrette was lovely but they really need to rethink how they serve this. As the plate was placed all the vinaigrette kept running off – onto Stephen’s shirt,  and onto our legs when we moved it. It needs a plate with a lip!

The lighting was low and we were sat at the bar which was uneven, meaning taking photos of the food was tricky. I apologise for the poor quality. They do not do the food justice.

All the cocktails sounded great, and we both really liked what we ordered. My favourite was the Micah 4:4 – cognac, fig, honey and sherry, it was heady, sweet and strong. Perfect. To follow I had the Emigre which was like an adult float, what with the fruity calvados and rum base and egg white adding the foam. It was really good but couldn’t match the Micah 4:4.

Stephen had wanted the calamartini which is flavoured with squid ink but that wasn’t available so he had to make do with an Into the Woods. Portside Parlour have a very cool gadget which I suspect they love to play with  - it got a lot of use when we were there – it infused smoke into alcohol. It was used to make this drink – a smoky take on a maple old fashioned, imbued with cedarwood bitters and the smoke from applewood. And now I have to confess I can’t remember what he had for his second drink – the Autopilot or the 5 o’Clock somewhere. Again, very good but perhaps not as much of a wow as the first drink.

Handy tip – be inquisitive, just because you see two pages of drinks, doesn’t mean there isn’t a third one lurking overleaf. Stephen was quite surprised when I started saying I might have the Émigré and he couldn’t spot it on the list anywhere. Crafty, these pages - you never know when there might be another one just the other side.

We really enjoyed the place and were tempted to stay longer but we had an appointment at Lounge Bohemia we had to keep…

Square Meal

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