Origin City: all white walls, high ceilings and the odd cave-type painting of a cow
Outside the restaurant, in London’s Smithfield, the weather was unexpectedly balmy. But inside they were surely praying for rain; the chef, deep within the bowels of his new establishment, looking at the forecast on his phone, drumming his nail-bitten fingers on the table and willing on storms.
Because that way – with howling gales, lashing rain, umbrellas being wrenched inside out – guests can be ushered in, taken to a table, and the dream of this place can begin to unfurl: cows, pigs and sheep, culled by hardy Scots on the restaurant’s own farm on the chilly shores of Argyll’s Loch Striven. Whole beasts ferried south in haste to be butchered on the premises at Origin. And then transformed into rich and filling, comforting and invigorating dishes: plates on the menu such as potted beef, chargrilled pork shoulder and ‘mince and tatties’, featured alongside macaroni cheese, beef-dripping chips and creamed potatoes.
Small plates at Origin City: a batten-down-the-hatches lunch
The menu at Origin City – a restaurant that’s all white walls, high ceilings and the odd cave-type painting of a cow – is truly, then, a batten-down-the-hatches lunch (with few exceptions).
I was eating with my pal April, herself a restaurateur and bar owner. She, like me, was still a little cross at having to shake then dry her hands on her muted pink dress (I used my jeans, not her dress), what with the loos not having any towels, but we put our narkiness aside.
While it’s not officially a menu for sharing, we decided to fully immerse ourselves by doing so. Before our orders arrived we were sent a wooden board of home-cured charcuterie with pickles and toast. The meat was fabulously good, the various cuts glistening, soft, rich and moreish. And with beautifully tart vegetables and some very fine, crunchy and thin sourdough toast, this made for a good and unexpected start.
There was actually a dash of light summeriness in a starter of salmon and bass tartare, arranged in a perfect circle, dainty and fresh, and with a little edge from some dill and slices of radish. Then it was full-on into black, dark and deep winter with a rectangle of potted beef with a drizzle of gravy.
Charcuterie at Origin City: fabulously good
This was hearty stuff, though it had nothing on the mince dish for the main course. This came in a pan with the top scattered with oats. It was the sort of dish that could revive you if you’d been stuck in a wet pothole for a week. Alongside was mash with torched and charred carrots, cabbage and more of those oats, tossed on top. There was a respectable plate of seared grey mullet too (cooked just right and served crisp skin up), with a salsa verde that could have done with more punch.
Then one of those wretched broccoli side dishes I keep banging on about – at least I think there was some broccoli there, hiding under a hosing of anchovy and a scattering of breadcrumbs. ‘Let me out,’ screamed the poor (nicely charred) veg.
We had crème brûlée for pud, which came like those classic ones in smart French brasseries: a wide and shallow roundel in a silver, two-handled pan.
It was well burnt on top but sadly the cream hadn’t set and was a runny disappointment.
Offering surprisingly good value for pretty decent grub, if this place could only get busy (we were one of just two occupied tables) and the weather can stay nasty, it should still be going by next summer – at which point the chef can go back into his office and start praying for rain.
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