Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, London EC2

 

It's a basic principle of the restaurant trade that when planning your adventurous, seasonal menu, you should always include some safe bets. People know what they want when they eat out, and mostly, they want chicken and steak.

Instead of fighting against this tendency, Mark Hix has taken it as a challenge and run with it. His new restaurant, Tramshed, offers only two main-course options: chicken and steak. No fish, nothing for the vegetarians, just plain old chicken and steak. This idea seemed rather kooky when Mark first mooted it; after opening something like eight restaurants, The Independent's favourite chef has encouraged us to expect something more exciting than some Hixian variation on an Angus Steak House.

But beneath his somewhat ramshackle exterior beats the heart of a very canny restaurateur. Once he'd secured the landmark building, a former tramway generating station in the heart of fashionable Shoreditch, Hix knew instinctively what he wanted to do with it. The launch was delayed by planning wrangles for a year, but as the production team on this magazine know all too well, Mark isn't a man to be daunted by a missed deadline.

By the time Tramshed finally opened, that pared-down menu was perfectly in tune with the new trend of doing just a few things sensationally well. The launch generated the kind of excitement normally reserved for obscure pop-ups and secret supper clubs, rather than 150-seat restaurants from established industry figures.

On the first Friday night after opening, the buzz was tremendous. The windowless building is on an epic scale. Only Wapping Food, housed in a converted power station, can match it – and that doesn't have an enormous Damien Hirst vitrine dominating the action, containing an embalmed cow being ridden by a cockerel. The moodily-lit space has been cunningly carved up to create a number of areas: a mezzanine gallery, a wall of huge semi-circular booths, a long Nighthawks-at-the Diner bar counter, and at the front, for walk-ins, shared refectory tables – appropriate for this cathedral-like space. The effect is of a kind of steam-punk gastrodome, both timeless and definitively 2012.

In a previous life, Mark worked for the high-tone Caprice Holdings group, and though the relaxed vibe at Tramshed is a world away from the choreographed perfection of Scott's or The Ivy, there's a common sense of ceremony. Champagne comes in coupes, wine in earthenware carafes and starched linen tea towels serve as napkins.

For £8 a head, you get all three starters – there's no choice, but they change daily – to share with the rest of your party. The star of ours was a single Yorkshire pudding, light and puffy as a brioche, served with whipped chicken livers. Good to see that the kitchen has found a way to use some of the engine, as well as the chassis, of all those noble free-range chooks.

The other two starters were Hix staples: a dish of sharp-sweet heritage tomatoes with shallots, and a salad of finely-shaved celery with pickled walnuts, parsley and Alex James's Blue Monday cheese. With Hirst and James represented, all we needed was an appearance from Keith Allen and we'd have had Fat Les.

There's a Hirst-evoking touch of the macabre in the way the chickens come to table – vertically spiked, with legs crossed, as though they've swan-dived onto the plate. For £25, you get a bird big enough to feed three; for £15.50, a poussin for one, or 'spring chicken' as the menu has it. Slow-reared in Wiltshire, these birds are lean, crisp-skinned and full of flavour. "It's like... so chickeny?" as the young woman at the next table put it. They're also quite hard work. Long after I'd polished off my steak, my guest laboured over his poussin, building up neat heaps of skin and bones as juices pooled in the earthenware dish.

Steak is served medium rare, unless otherwise requested and again, there's no choice – just the 'mighty-marbled Glenarm sirloin', dry-aged in a Himalayan salt chamber and served with Béarnaise sauce and chips. Deep red inside, with a dark and dirty char and a strip of caramelised fat, it was terrific, and decent value at £20 for 250g. The skinny chips taste unmistakeably of rosemary and chicken fat; presumably they're fried in it. A side order of onion rings in scrumpy batter carried the heady whiff of the fairground.

Desserts were good: a spiced apple pie served with custard, and a delicate cheesecake, whose chocolate ripples had an espresso-ish bite.

There's so much to like about Tramshed. It's perfectly pitched to appeal to both hipsters and oldsters. Staff are young and keen. The wine list covers all price points, with selections by the glass, carafe and even magnum. There's a takeaway counter, for steak sandwiches and the like. And children eat free at weekends. Children! There never used to be children in Shoreditch. Never used to be wonderful restaurants like Tramshed, either. In fact I remember the old days, when all you could get to eat around there was chicken and chips...

Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street London EC2 (020-7749 0478)

Around £55 for three courses including wine and service

Food ****
Ambience ****
Service ****

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Raising the steaks

Kyloe

Edinburgh's first gourmet steak restaurant serves the very best Scottish beef – try the £19.50 steak board, which includes cuts of bavette, onglet and feather.

1-3 Rutland Street, Edinburgh (0131 229 3402)

Nathan Outlaw

Two-Michelin-starred Cornish restaurant serving a simple formula of seafood and steak; a fabulous chargrilled rib-eye will set you back £25.

St Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall (01208 862 737)

Beef

Choose between charcoal-cooked Highland, Wagyu and USDA steaks at this award-winning and popular local restaurant.

11 Warwick Rd, Kenilworth, Warwickshire (01926 863 311)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003