The Camp and Furnace has been acquiring further accolades since the last visit at the Tree Hugger’s Banquet, the powers that be decided to undertake a live-screen cooking exercise in the form of the Electric Kitchen, where dishes are prepared in the Camp venue on the large screen for all and sundry to see. A dynamic camera following the kitchen action with a live DJ is a different way to dine, certainly a more interesting ambience than piped music and candles; which is a usual setting in more conventional and indeed, subdued.
Camp and Furnace has also recently received an accolade of being officially the second-coolest place to dine in the UK according to the Times top 20 coolest restaurants to eat: [http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/food/restaurants/article3914145.ece]. The Quarter also made this list, which is pleasing for them, given their efforts to evolve their space over the last decade. I would hardly concur with some of Abigail Radnor’s observations in the piece, (I wouldn’t say the Baltic Triangle is really a ‘meat-packing district’ for a start), but the recognition speaks volumes in itself.
The food itself was in keeping with the usual Camp and Furnace fayre, small tapas or starters with a selected mains list means that you are not inundated with too much choice and get to focus your attention on some very competent dishes. Alas the event has been discontinued for the foreseeable future to concentrate on the Foodslam Fridays and the usual kitchen output, which is no bad thing considering the overall value is, as usual for the Camp and Furnace of a good standard.
Thankfully for the standard dining conditions, taking a few extra guinea pigs with me provided an exposure to a good cross-section of the menu. There is provision for vegetarians as well as meat and of course, fish lovers alike on the menu, two vegetarian options and usually 2-3 fish with 3 meat dishes all cooked with a consistent care and attention. The overall feel of the menu is a simplistic one; playful touches here and there, with a care and focus on presentation that is evident as each dish lands in front of you on the benched seating arrangements. It is almost reminiscent of a strange street party, but indoors… with trees, lights and a strangely comforting industrial ambience.
The Halloumi salad was quite pleasing on the eye, but alas a couple of individual components left threads in the dish to pull at, not enough to unravel much, just enough to fray at the edges. The pomegranate that bejewelled the plate was a touch sour and the smears of harissa lacking the distinctive north-African chilli punch it is synonymous with. The cured salmon was a very aesthetically pleasing offering; the salmon bright and tender embraced within coriander, apple shard and chicory micro salad. This was then resting above a horseradish potato salad, which was sadly the one weak link in the dish. The horseradish sadly proceeded to punch heavily above the weight of the other components, meaning a lack of harmony in the dish as a whole. Finally with the small dishes, the chicken tacos, which were generous to say the least, but succulently put together with a subtly acidic salsa, crisp and succulent sweetcorn within a sturdy fresh-snapping taco shell. Thankfully, there was no need to apply a small rainforest’s worth of napkins to clean up any residual mess - as is usually the case when tacos appear on a ‘dirty’ food menu.
The main dishes continued along the same honest vein as the starters, simply named and expertly presented dishes made to provide sustenance with broad but controlled brush strokes. The veal ragû was presented with papardelle wide enough to accommodate the sweet and perfectly balanced ragû sauce, tender baby basil and the light textured, delicately sweet veal. A light dusting of umami-rich Parmesan provided an excellent shot in the arm to the pasta dish.
The ‘shoulder’ lamb was already stripped down, saving one the pleasure of allowing the soft shards to fall away from the bone, served with fondant potato, peashoots and an intensely savoury jus, alas these were all overpowered by the addition of blue cheese which was strictly speaking, massively out of place (imagine a cacophony of a lone cello playing out of harmony with a string quartet) with the rest of the dish, the presentation was good but drew few gasps of delight.
The celebration of ham was indeed just that, a glazed ham hock dressed with honey and mustard and presented on a wide wooden board flanked with pickled gherkins and red cabbage. This dish was also presented on the Electric Kitchen event, proving a popular dish, however on both occasions, there felt like there was something missing by way of a starchy accompaniment within the dish itself to provide a foil and contrast to the sharp acidity of the cabbage and pickles, and indeed with the rich fatty succulence of the ham. The meat itself was cooked perfectly though, falling apart through retained moisture and a generous cooking time.
The Chestnut and pecorino cheese papardelle was met with a mixed response from our party, with some finding it rich, creamy and pretty deep with plenty of flavour, the other opinion was that it was too one-dimensional with all the flavours mingled leaving very little by way of definition between ingredients. From experience though, this was by far a more satisfying take on vegetarian food than previously (and no doubt subsequently) experienced.
As ever, the value is impeccable at the Camp and Furnace, which continues to make pace ahead of most other establishments in Liverpool. A few more subtle touches to the dishes might not go amiss to retain a consistent march and avoid a stumble.
The Camp and Furnace
67 Greenland Street,
Tel: 0151 7082890