Jack Peat reviews The Tasting Room, Liverpool Street
Sat overlooking an ice rink suspended above Liverpool Street station with a citrus-infused, hoppy craft beer in hand and a whiff of smoked meats in the air I realised; winter doesn’t have to be so depressing.
We had been invited to a new pop-up venture borne of a marriage between artisan food shop Sourced Market, seasonal drink specialists Peppermint Bars and smoked meat authority Smokestack which have collaborated to form a pseudo Winter Wonderland of treats in celebration of what is one of the greatest artisan-meets-craft-meets-gastro revolutions of our time.
As is the norm with these micro ventures you immediately form an admiration for their valiant efforts in breathing new life into once lost culinary delights. Peppermint Bars had a range of craft beers to sample with Fuller’s Frontier Craft Lager (let’s not debate whether a large brewery imitating a micro-brewery rubbishes the term ‘craft’) being the stand-out ale of the night showcasing typical hoppy aromas with a nice biscuity finish. Home-made mulled wine and winter warmer cocktails also looked appealing for those of us who aren’t that arsed about the semantics of what makes a craft beer a craft beer (the conclusion being that nobody really cares what you call it when it tastes this good).
Then there’s the meat. Picture if you will a custom fabricated barbeque smoker producing an enchanting smell as joints of meat are glazed in traditional Texan style and left to steadily cook as the wood-infused scents break apart the meat fibres creating tender cuts of meat that slide from the bone. At the front of the grill is Barbados-born barbecue connoisseur David Carter that you unwittingly develop one of those heterosexual ‘admirations’ for. He’s the kind of bloke who makes you feel completely inadequate. I felt compelled to start lifting weights, buy a pair of braces and get smoking meat ASAP for fear of becoming utterly outclassed as a man. He also, I think it’s worth noting, cooks excellent joints of meat.
Tying it all together is Ben O’Brien and Dan O’Neill (both English I believe) of Sourced Market and The Tasting Room. Fed up with the dodgy burgers, overpriced chips and warm beer on offer at music festivals the entrepreneurs decided to take on the ‘culinary wasteland’ and came up with Sourced Market, delivering top quality street food sourced from artisan producers. Since then the shop has secured a permanent residence in St Pancras International train station and provides pop-ups throughout the year at festivals and other venues across Britain.
O’Brien said: “When I first came up with the idea for this street food, market-style retailer, I thought, what I want is Borough Market-style produce but with the convenience of being able to pop into Sainsbury’s Local on the way home”.
The Tasting Room is a collaboration of all these wonderful ventures and will be open all day every day until the end of February. With an on-site ice skating rink and a hearty helping of all things authentic, the collaborative effort has managed to create a winter fusion of all that’s good about London’s craft revival.
“We’ve designed The Tasting Room to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds, from a swift ‘best in class’ bacon butty and exclusively blended Mission coffee for breakfast, to a craft beer and smoked meat feast at night – there’s something for everyone, at any time of the day”, O’Neil said.
“The Tasting Room shows the potential of street food and a pop-up ambiance to provide an alternative to the traditional hospitality scene, offering a well-presented venue and menu for social gatherings and food fixes, without sacrificing quality or class.”