My (very much one-sided) relationship with Stevie Parle is the stuff that movies are made from. I first encountered the super chef’s work at Craft, a futuristic spaceship restaurant, that knocked me clean off my feet with blushingly beautiful décor and heart-pumpingly good plates. After too much wine and a blustered goodbye, I was hungry for more. And more I had, as I drooled over Sasso Chicken and tiny mountains of pasta at the sexily intimate Rotorino in Dalston. Coy looks and accidentally-on-purpose leg-brushing aside, it’s time to take this relationship to the next level with the make-or-break third date. I’m taking my infatuation with the mogul’s restaurants back to where it all started, the very beginning of his empire: Dock Kitchen.
Venue and Atmosphere
When I was 24, I was sharing my childhood room with my teddy and crying over a boy who thought teached was the past participle of ‘to teach’. Stevie Parle, on the other hand, was turning his pop-up into his first renowned restaurant. Dock Kitchen was the launchpad for a career that includes cook books, TV appearances, five London restaurants and one slavish disciple. There’s nothing to suggest that Dock Kitchen was a test or an insecure first dip of toes into the water; the restaurant is as good-looking as the rest of his portfolio.
Located in Notting Hill, a former Victorian wharf building has been reworked into an open, whale-sized space. The venue was designed by Britain’s Tom Dixon, who also has a shop downstairs, and has incorporated the space's industrial past into the restaurant's interiors. Diners sit sandwiched between an exposed brick wall on one side and floor-to-ceiling glass on the other. In the middle of the restaurant, chefs create their masterpieces unhurriedly in the open kitchen, the smell of various spices and sizzling meats wafting over tables. Much like Rotorino and Craft, dining at Parle's Dock Kitchen is as much about the venue as it is about the menu.
Food and Drink
There’s a reason that Parle was conquering London by the age of 24: he is an incredible chef. From Italian to British, each of his restaurants are a different project and theme. Dock Kitchen’s menu and cuisine changes according to what is in season and which visiting chefs are in residency. For our evening, the menu is a list of Middle Eastern sharing plates, each as rich as the oil-wealthy states from which they originated. The idea with the menu is to share, though I often seem to find myself greedily grabbing when it comes to Parle’s food. Tonight was no different as dish after dish was brought to our almost-buckling table.
In a feast fit for a sultan, we gorged ourselves on so many small plates we didn't even make it to the mains. Battered and fried sage leaves (£4) were dipped in chilli for a dish as fragrant as slurping an entire bottle of Chanel No.5, only a lot more pleasant. Cashew nuts were glazed in honey (£4) and tiny crunchy pickles (£4) were balanced precariously on a mole hill of thick, sharp Greek yogurt. This was merely the support act for the beginning of dinner and once we were done with the ‘nibbles’ another troupe of plates appeared.
Starters are just as showstopping, with a cascade of tastes in every dish. Thin-cut slices of prosciutto were piled so high the meat became a thick slab, softened by the blob of burrata and a whole-cooked, oozingly sweet fig (£10). Chicken livers (£8/£14) were served in a purple-rich sauce of Greek yogurt and almost acrid pomegranate molasses. Even vegetables were so full of flavour they seemed like pumped-up, steroid-taking hunks next to usual restaurant offerings, with a Fattoush (£6/£10) of teeth-breaking-ly crunchy carrots and radishes. Everyone has a breaking point and after eight plates, I discovered mine, though not quite enough to skip dessert, which was a masterpiece chocolate dish, with oil-paint thick mousse and a jutting honeycomb chunk.
Third date in with Stevie Parle's empire and I'm not just ready to go to bed, I'm ready to get down on one knee, commit to a fixed-rate mortgage and start looking into reputable primary schools. Dock Kitchen is a gift of a restaurant that will hit all your senses, from crush-worthy decor through to game-changing dishes.