Ceilidh dancing is sweeping the capital as a hot new trend, the SNP are sending down an army of heavies to Westminster, and even Lulu made a brief return for the Commonwealth Games; Scotland’s rep is as bitchin’ as it’s been since the release of Braveheart. And highland loving Dram & Smoke are only adding to the popularity with their foodie pop-up, promising five-courses of authentic Scottish fare and taking place throughout May 2015 in the heart of Hackney Wick.
Swan Wharf is a part bistro, part private hire space overlooking the canal and the Olympic Stadium. It’s located in Hackney Wick’s ‘Fish Island’ area, surrounded by warehouses and artists’ residences. The actual building is an old sofa factory, and I've got to say the interior of the venue really took me by surprise – the whole bar area room is lined with window-walls, so you’re not only overlooking the canal, but also the Olympic Stadium. As well as the large pop-up bar, the room itself was splattered with sofas, ping pong tables, beanbag games and even a token foosball table – where we were left to our own devices until called to take our seats in the separate dining room/hall. This space features about eight large wooden tables, with an open-view kitchen space on the adjacent side. As you'd expect with a renovated factory, you'll find exposed brick, super high ceilings and plenty of space. A particularly nice touch was the tangled lightbulb-laden rope up and around the steel girders. Hats off to the organisers for finding this little gem!
The Food & Drink
A five-course set menu; the food is undoubtedly the star of the show at Dram & Smoke. I’m not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to Scottish cuisine, but you could see they’d taken traditional dishes and added their own modern, unique twist. Authentic Cullen Skink came in a mousse form, and we also finished on a ‘hot toddy’ tart for dessert. My favourite two courses on the night were the potted duck and the salt-cooked lamb shoulder, of which we had to crack open with a hammer before eating. The food is pretty much all served communally, so you’re sharing around, passing large dishes etc, which not only saved me unnecessarily pigging out in the earlier courses, but also encouraged more discussion between the table. I wasn’t stuffed, but I was 100% full; aside from the lamb, the courses are served in relatively small portions, but they’re enough – and in truth are a steal considering you only pay £40 for a ticket.
Perhaps it’s the circular communal tables, or maybe even the seating plan board as you enter; but for some reason the event had a really nice wedding vibe to it, sans the boring speeches. The house-party ambience in the bar area seemed to ensure everyone’s mood was lively, and we were happily chatting away to our fellow diners at the table all evening. It didn’t feel forced, which is nice. But the communal food and general buzz ensured a really easy vibe. I’ve been to a few dining pop-ups of a similar ilk, but Dram & Smoke really stood out in terms of atmosphere; the games beforehand encouraged a jovial attitude and the whole affair just seemed really easy, laidback, and non-pretentious.
Gorgeous food, a chilled atmosphere and a cool-as-you-like venue; it’s pretty hard to find fault with Dram & Smoke. You can see that they’ve made it a real focus to ensure their guests are comfortable, and that the setting isn’t in any way stuffy or pretentious; and they’ve succeeded. Keep an eye out for their future events, I'm sure they'll be making a splash in London again soon.