To walk into Mark Hix’s Tramshed (www.hixrestaurants.co.uk/restaurant/tramshed/) is a pretty special experience. It is hidden away down Rivington Street and looks more like an art gallery from the outside. Huge glass windows reveal a bit of the showstopper that greets you upon entry: a huge model of a cow dominating the centre of the enormous room. The restaurant definitely feels more lux than menu prices would suggest.Inside, there is a pleasant buzz, and the food that adorns each table makes for much conversation (more on that later!)
On this Thursday, I visited Tramshed with three girlfriends at 7pm, and we were keen to get ordering, given what we had seen on our arrival in the restaurant. We were seated near the bar at an average table, but the tables are pleasantly spaced out, so you don’t feel too cramped. Unfortunately, as we sat down, the waitress strongly emphasised that we had to return the table at 9pm, and omitted the customary ‘enjoy your meal’ or similar, which I thought slightly odd. This is obviously stated when you book a table at any restaurant, but I have never before had it emphasised to me so strongly!
Menu: As the huge cow in the centre of the room suggests, the menu is heavily meat-based. Generally, you can either order chicken or beef in a variety of sizes: either a portion for one, or as something to share with the whole table. There isn’t a huge deal of variation, and whilst the restaurant caters to vegetarians, their options are not very exciting. – 3.5*
We ordered some wine, which was reasonably priced, and enquired as to how many people the ‘Big Bird’ (sharing chicken) would serve. We were advised that they had run out. At 7pm. On a Thursday in the City. Bizarre. Therefore, we ordered the smaller chicken (pictured) with two large sides of mushrooms and cabbage. As I am dairy-free, I asked for the spinach to be served wilted and not creamed, and was advised that this would not be possible because it was ‘pre-prepared’. I often judge an establishment on the flexibility they can offer, and couldn’t help but wonder why they would not have fresh spinach in a large chef’s kitchen.
We began with two starters to share: whipped butternut squash with goat’s curd, and truffled artichoke salad. We were advised to order two starters because they were small. I didn’t realise how small – they looked more like cicchetti! The whipped squash was more like a smear on a tiny, dolls house-sized plate with a few small pieces of goat’s curd. The truffled artichoke salad was i) equally small, and ii) did not taste like truffle in the slightest. Which, for nearly £7, was very disappointing.
Thankfully, Tramshed picked themselves up somewhat for the mains, which is what they do best. The chicken was very aesthetically pleasing as you can see: surrounded by chips (obviously avoid if carb-free!) and filled with delicious sage and onion stuffing, and served with their house gravy. I chose to have a leg but my friends who chose the breast meat said it was quite dry, and in much need of the gravy. The sides were okay, but nothing special. And, for nearly £14 for some mushrooms and cabbage, you want exceptional, exciting flavours.
Dessert-wise, this is where Tramshed really let themselves down. At 8.40pm, my friend wanted to take a look at the menu. We were advised that we would have to move tables if we wanted desserts, because we had to return the table at 9pm. Therefore, we opted against it. At 8.45pm, a different waitress were asked if we wanted to move, 15 minutes before our deemed ‘slot’. Poor service and lack of consideration was the nail in the coffin, and spoilt the otherwise good nature of our lovely waitress Amber.
Atmosphere: As you might expect from a long overdue reunion of four girls, we were pretty loud! Yet, thankfully, this was in keeping with the overall atmosphere of the restaurant. It definitely caters for bigger groups who, perhaps rather than focusing on food, are focusing on the aesthetics, and easy food for large groups of people.
Overall: As the title suggests, don’t judge a book by its cover: the room and décor is absolutely 5*, yet the food and service just isn’t up to scratch. Furthermore, I love to enjoy food and feel relaxed whilst I do so and, whilst the setting was great for a boisterous City catch up, I felt processed, just another number. Let’s just say I can see past the smoke and mirrors…
Food menu (options available): 3*
Food (taste): 3.5*
Drinks menu (options available): 3.5*
Drinks (taste): 4*