Meat and two Hirsts: no frills at the Tramshed

Jul 12, 2012

Pared-down eatery has limited choice, but makes up for it with quality, and a touch of the macabre

Damien Hirst, 2012

What you need to know
The Tramshed is a hip new restaurant for meat lovers on Rivington Street, in London's Old Street – or 'Silicon Roundabout' - district. It is owned and run by Mark Hix, the restaurateur and food writer known for the Oyster & Chop House in Smithfield.

The Tramshed's pared-back menu includes three sharing starters, as well as whole free-range chicken, poussin and sirloin steak, and a well-stocked bar.

The restaurant is housed in a turn-of the-century tramshed, which once served as an electricity generator for the London trams. The spare industrial design is now embellished by two large Damian Hirst artworks, a vitrine featuring an embalmed chicken perched on a cow (Cock and Bull) and a painting of a cartoon cow and chicken.

Meal for two, including starters, main, bottle of wine and dessert, £95 approx.

What the critics like
There's so much to like about this restaurant, says Tracey McLeod in The Independent. The pared-down menu is "in tune with the new trend of doing just a few things sensationally well". The poussin is lean, crisp-skinned and full of flavour, the steak with its "dark and dirty char and a strip of caramelised fat", was terrific. The Tramshed is also "perfectly pitched to appeal to both hipsters and oldsters", and the staff are "young and keen".

It's all straightforwardly cooked but absolutely superlative in quality, says David Sexton in the Evening Standard. The excellent chicken is presented vertically stuffed, on a spike, feet in the air – "a little Hirst touch, on the table in front of you". The steak is "wonderful stuff", firm and sweet, "a complete delight". The Tramshed is a terrific achievement, "ruthlessly conceived and faultlessly executed".

When you go to a restaurant where there are only three main courses on offer, it tells you two things, says Tania Ballantine in Time Out: "a) the man behind it has balls, and b) he must know his customers." The food is good value throughout. The narrow repertoire puts pressure on the kitchen to deliver excellence and "there's something liberating about having so little choice".

What they don't like
I'm not sold, says Grace Dent in the Evening Standard. The chicken on the spike, with feet, "makes lunch feel like part of one of those waxwork tableaux at the Jorvik Viking Centre". And the "accusative gaze of the honking great Damien Hirst formaldehyde-pickled bull" is the only thing livening up the sterile space. "I want to love Tramshed, but frankly, I think I'd be better off in Nando's."

John Lancaster in The Guardian says: "I didn't really see the point of Tramshed, which could mean that I'm not the intended customer". Hix's food has always seemed a bit plain. "Tramshed is an apotheosis of plainness".

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