Inspired by the success of their spring 2014 pop-up, Dram & Smoke is returning to London with a new winter residency. In an old leather tannery near London Bridge, the pop-up will run for five weeks, from 19th November to 20th December. In addition to a five-course menu of contemporary Scottish cooking, there will also be a few new additions to this season’s event – including a Monkey Shoulder Scotch bar with hot toddies aplenty. Tickets and details are available at http://www.dramandsmoke.com. Below, find our inside look at the boys’ original pop-up event.
There’s a new pop-up in Vauxhall, London that’s quietly reinventing Scottish cooking. Dram & Smoke, the brainchild of young Scottish entrepreneurs Paul Ross and Nick Fulton are making Scottish food playful and entertaining, drawing on traditional stereotypes – haggis and deep fried Mars Bars – and reinventing them with a tongue in cheek flourish. Their six-week venture in a steelyard in Vauxhall is more reminiscent of the shipbuilding yards of the Clyde than South London and gives the setting an industrial edge. Not surprising as during the week it is actually a working steelyard and come 5pm on a Friday the workers clear out and there is a frantic rush to set-up before diners arrive at 7.30pm.
The modern Scottish menu starts with breaded haggis bonbons, deep fried and served with chilli jam, then there’s a plate of Scottish charcuterie, potted smoked mackerel, some warming cullen skink and then some beautifully smoked venison haunch before the playful deep fried Mars Bar with shortbread ice cream and Irn Bru.
Paul and Nick grew up together in Scotland and plan to return to Edinburgh one day to open up a restaurant there, but the big question is why did they choose Scottish cooking and what is it? Scotland has always been blessed with the most superb natural larder, wonderfully fresh seafood from crystal clear waters, game that roams the highlands, a history of pedigree beef and rich soil for growing fresh, flavoursome veg. Chefs from all over the UK source their seasonal produce from Scotland and wax lyrical about its quality. So why the lack of Scottish restaurants?
In London only two really spring to mind: Boisdale (below) which is an old-school, landed Scottish ex-pat joint in Belgravia, known more for its jazz and cigar terrace than it is for its Scottish cooking; then there’s Albannach, just off Trafalgar Square, Scottish in name and a few whiskies to boot, but the menu is more gastropub fare with Scottish ingredients.
Nick Fulton, the chef of the two, ventures that Scottish cuisine is beginning to go through the reinvention that English cooking did two decades ago. There are a lot of famous Scottish chefs, but they leave Scotland to train in classical French techniques, or go to work in London where they pick up on modern British cooking that they can apply Scottish ingredients to, or infuse with ‘hints of Scottishness’.
So what about Scottish restaurants in Scotland? Even the best Scottish restaurants north of the border focus more on Scottish produce than actual Scottish dishes. In Edinburgh both Nick and Paul speak highly of Wedgewood, whose chef Paul Wedgewood sources great local ingredients and employs foragers to find the best wild seasonal produce but whose menu is British in outlook, the same can be said of Paul and Nick’s other favourite Tom Kitchin’s restaurant, The Kitchin. See Tom Kitchin’s Rockpool dish below.
So how can Scottish cooking reinvent itself? Does it have a definable cuisine that can bring it to the forefront of people’s minds? Both Paul and Nick think it can – there’s a range of old fashioned Scottish dishes that can be reinvented in both a deconstructed manner or more playfully. Nick cites Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant Dinner, which draws on traditional English recipes and then playfully deconstructs them for the 21st century.
The question is can Scottish cooking be more than the sum of its parts, the natural bounty found in Scotland’s larder and exquisitely prepared? Nick and Paul are taking the early steps to answer this in their wholly Scottish menu at Dram & Smoke.