It’s been about three-and-a-half years since Dock Street Kitchen opened. Give or take. I reported on it during its first week or so of trading and found it a handsome, full-bodied affair with young, busy staff and pretensions of, if-not grandeur, then certainly greatness. It arrived as the largest and most upmarket eating experience within Hull and this it remains. However, recently there has been a bit of a major change, so – with 2017 looming and – I thought it high time I return to see if the place is fit to face all the attention it’s soon bound to receive. I found, happily, that it most definitely is.
The big change happened last year when original chef/patron James Allcock rather suddenly upped sticks and disappeared to work on the other side of the country. He’s apparently since returned and is running a pub in Holderness, but his unexpected departure left many wondering if 1884 might be somewhat rudderless.
The remaining 1884 team, though, carried on regardless and used the episode as an opportunity to regroup and rethink; de facto head chef Laura Waller took full control of the kitchen, the never-satisfactory waiting team were reorganised and they even (joy of joys) stopped serving steaks on those annoying planks of wood. The layout has been very effectively reordered as well and now the whole place feels happier, more efficient and far friendlier. The old pretensions have been (in a very Hull style) transformed into plain-speaking confidence and I like Dock Street Kitchen more now than ever before.
The food remains all about intriguing takes on British classics made with the best local and national ingredients. Take, for instance, queenie scallops with black pudding crumb. Served with pea shoots, apple rings and an onion salad, they’re a refreshing take on the scallop/black pudding mix that everywhere else is ubiquitous and tired but here feels unusual and satisfying. For my starter I had beef carpaccio – served under a glass cloche filled with applewood smoke – with delicious confit shallot, little pickles, Moorland Tomme cheese and truffle mayonnaise. There was also an egg yolk on the plate which, I found an odd addition. The dish worked fantastically without it. Chefs, though, innit?
I should briefly mention the little extras chucked on the table in between rounds. Milk bread with almond and honey butter was yum and a big spoon each filled with gin and juniper salmon tartare and a dollop of caviar was a freebie as unexpected as it was delicious.
While the main on the other side of the table – a big, sumptuous, posh fish pie – looked impressive, my dish of venison wellington eclipsed it in virtually every way. Two rolls of pink-meated, soft-crusted wellington with a huge spear of air dried ham sat between, served with cubes of potato, parsnip and liquorice purée, carrot kale and juniper jus. It was a rich, satisfying plateful; the meat – juicy, the jus – deep, the ham – pointy. It left me very satisfied, yet wanting more.
The cheese trolley at 1884 appears to be modelled on the famously huge and exhaustive example of the craft found across the Humber at Winteringham Fields. The selected five cheeses yon side of the table – ‘I’ll have one soft, one local, one smelly and two of your choice’ – were merrily and noisily devoured before I got much of a look in. Shame, because my dessert of choice – triple chocolate torte with roasted peanuts and peanut ice cream – didn’t really do it for me. I liked the blob of ice cream but the torte was a tad claggy and I couldn’t get my head round the peanuts.
They were also mixed with popping candy, surely a kitchen novelty that has overstayed by now? It was the only misstep of a marvellous evening.
We also left light of pocket. There’s no denying that 1884 DSK is a dear do. We had a couple or three pints each, three courses and the odd side and it came to £112. Not cheap. The venison wellington alone rushed us £29.
That’s what you pay to eat at the poshest eatery in Hull, though, and the service was thorough and unhurried, the setting was comfortable and luxurious and the food excellent.
The next year or two should certainly cement its reputation as Hull’s best restaurant and it will easily join the ranks of the best in Yorkshire. The fettle is fine.
• 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, Humber Dock Street, Marina, Hull HU1 1TB. 01482 222260, 884dockstreetkitchen.co.uk. Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12-2pm & 6-9.30pm; Sunday, 12-3pm; Monday, 6-9.30pm.
DRINKS SELECTION 4/5