Well, 2018 has been a phenomenal year for us. This time a year ago we were just starting out, struggling through the bareness last winter had to offer. With so much having happened we thought we’d pause and consider twelve special moments in the last twelve months. Turns out – there’s an awful lot to running a restaurant. From social media networking, to the odd special lunch, to huge events even before we get the fun things – planning menus and doing service...
3) Favourite Dishes
4) Staff – new manager, old debts
Any and every restaurant is only as good as its staff and we have been wonderfully lucky on that front. The people that I have worked with this year have been amongst the most inventive, diligent and warm people that I have ever known, and each of them I would consider friends (in fact I now live with one!). Alex has come in to manage the restaurant, bringing a tidy efficiency that has grounded Remi and Aaron, whilst challenging the rest to climb higher. The dearly departed Su, Toni and Dan have left us for adventures in utterly different worlds. In their stead we have welcomed, Gina, Bart and Lisa who have settled in seamlessly. We hope that in 2019 we will be just as fortunate.
Perhaps not even ten years ago it would have been farcical to suggest serving up restaurant food out of a container. Forty feet in which to manoeuvre, serve, sous-vide, grill, pickle, bake and all the rest of it. At times it has felt claustrophobic with cabin-fevers gripping us each in turn. Next year we hope to take on a new establishment and try our strengths elsewhere. But we would be remiss if we did not recognise how the success of 2018 has in no small way been wrapped up in this very special container.
9) The V word
For unclear reasons veganism seems to be a contentious word, its various signifiers causing a degree of consternation as though its popularity and arrival onto the mainstream threatens the liberty of all meat-loving folk. Here at Smoke and Salt we do not consider ourselves crusaders for any one cause. Yet we make special effort to have one entirely vegan dish on each menu, plus about half our menu is easily adapted to become vegetarian or vegan. When reflecting upon 2018 it is worth considering how our food, and that of other restaurants, is situating in broader shifts in the culinary landscape
10) Crispy new potatoes, chimichurri, Gorgonzola & Wiltshire beef heart
We would be remiss not to specially include our favourite dish. Remi has a mind to call this upmarket steak and chips a ‘basic bitch’ – it is, after all, simply oil, cheese, meat and carbs. But we all love it (it lets us flex our Spanish ‘rrr’ in chimuchurri), you all love it, and it will remain a fixture on the menu.
11) THAT Smoke & Salt Playlist – De gustibus non disputandum est.
2018 also saw the blossoming of our playlist from the repetition of the slimly picked 50-odd songs to ten times that figure. Music is now a mainstay of most restaurants and cafes. It provides entertainment for the staff and guests alike and can set the tone of the eating experience. The development of our playlist has been a team collaboration, one at times fraught with conflict and dispute. It must be said that our playlist has not got to where it is today with the necessary culling of terribly incongruous songs. Whilst it still courts some controversy, the playlist is enjoyed by guests and we hope to add some new bangers in 2019.
12) You - The Diner
This one may be cheap. Indeed, it is. There are an awful lot of customers that pass through who I wished hadn’t. Difficult customers with no sense of manners or decorum. I’m sure they’d make anyone’s day worse but in a shipping container, where the whole experience is tighter, where you can’t hide in another room and are always on the spot, the bad experiences are heightened. And by contrast, there are those of you who bound in with warmth and generosity, those of you who enjoy tasting something new or peculiar, who get us dancing during service and make us enjoy cooking and delivering each dish. To all of you we say thank you, merry Christmas and make sure you come back and see us next year!