Thursday, June 04, 2009

Formans and Fish island

Talking Exhibitions
8.5" x 11.5", pencil and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Our final stop on the Drawing London Group outing to East london last Friday was to Formans on Fish Island.

Fish Island

Fish Island is an area which is a real backwater in East London - east of the Old Ford area of Bow and north of Old Ford Lock on the canalised River Lea.
Fish Island is bounded by the River Lea, the Hertford Union canal and the East Cross Route, and is so-called because of its street names (Roach Road, Bream Street, etc).
Hidden london - Fish Island

We were visiting Formans which is a brand new restaurant and part of a family of companies all dedicated to smoking and selling fish. How apt therefore to find that it's located on Fish Island!

We had the pleasure of visiting their new building last Friday. It's absolutely amazing. The whole building has been constructed on the principle of it being the shape and structure of a slice out of a salmon - and it's a very vivid pink on the outside!

What's interesting about Formans is that their previous home used to be situated right in the middle of what is now the new Olympic stadium. They were the very last company to leave the site and Lance Foreman the Chairman conducted a very long battle to stay as long as they could so that the business would survive and relocate into the new building which was specially built very close to their original site. The process was recently the subject of a BBC2 programme and has also been the subject of a number of newspaper articles such as this one from back in 2005 Up in smoke: The firm that lost out in the Olympics.

I guess, at the end of the day, due to the fight they put up they probably didn't lose out. Although apparently at the end, the construction people started building on the site before the firm had left and all the Forman's employees had to be escorted in and out of the ground - in hardhats!

H Forman's is Forman's Smokery. It's the oldest established smokery in the UK. It also smokes the salmon differently from the way it's done elsewhere. They use a very traditional London Cure which many think is the best there is. We could see down into the commercial kitchen area where they were prepping fish.

We were given a guided tour of the operation by Lloyd Hardwick, the restaurant's Executive Chef. and learned that there are three other companies - the restaurant which is new, a venue facility (also new and attracting much interest as it's the nearest one to the Games site!) and an online food delivery for its gourmet food products which has been going for a little while (check out the smoked fish!).

So what you may say. Well I would do too - until I recognised a packet of their salmon - which I'd last seen on display in Fortnum and Masons in Piccadilly and they only stock the very best. It turns out that Formans also ship their smoked salmon to top class hotels all around the world all round the world from Bangkok's Oriental to Sandy Lanes in Barbados. So if you've ever been fortunate to eat any this is where it comes from!
This is the legacy we are getting in advance. Formans is a shrine to smoked salmon
Boris Johnson,London Mayor

Lunch was simply wonderful - as you can see from the photo. These were the starters and they were followed by a Gourmet Fish Stew with mustard mash for my main course. For which I have one word - Yummy!

Having eaten a simply splendid lunch I wasn't at all surprised to learn, when I looked at the website later, that Lloyd had learned his craft from the Roux Brothers and subsequently became the first Executive Chef of The Tate Modern.

It was great to see a photographic exhibition in the restaurant - photographs of all the industries and companies which were displaced when the Olympics moved in.

The restaurant is very interesting as it's just a javelin's throw from the new Olympic Stadium - which is very visible from floor to ceiling windows. They also have a very good fish-eye (what else?!) webcam on the roof of the building from which you can see the Olympic Stadium. We just made do with the view from the balcony where we sat to sketch after lunch

At the top and below you can see a couple of my quick "after lunch" sketches - when everything suddenly seemed to simplify much more easily into large shapes!

Drawing on the Balcony at Foremans
8.5" x 11.5", pencil and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

All in all it was a splendid day out sketching, walking and eating.

...and at the end of the day out, all that was left to do was for me to walk home - down the very peaceful and almost rural Hertford Union Canal.


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