Tramshed, Old Street

Tramshed is the newest eatery to jump on the two-choice menu trend, following cult restaurants like Burger & Lobster. This East End establishment offers Chicken and Steak, just as the specially made Damien Hirst installation suggests – a cow and chicken are installed in formaldehyde above your heads – as you gorge on their relatives.

The venue is a feasting hall, a vault like chamber for cooking and consuming meat, not dissimilar to St John. It is a huge space with lots of wooden tables and stalls for the crowds to eat at. A concept like this usually delights the press and populace and yet on a Saturday lunchtime the place was far from full. We ‘enjoyed’ a  clear view of the creatures above our heads while we ate, but I was too hungry to be squeamish despite a little shudder beforehand.

Skipping starters, we went straight to the main event and tried the signature Roast Woolley Park Farm free-range Chicken (£25) and a 250g mighty marbled Glenarm Sirloin Steak (£20). Needless to say the two of us had way too much food to finish, but we needed to try both for the sake of the review!

The chicken is intended to feed 2-3 people… at home this amount of meat is enough for my whole family of six! It was sensationally displayed ‘feet up’ and sizzling hot when it arrived. Tender white meat and plenty of crispy skin, just like the rotisserie poultry you can cook at home. My only criticism? I needed more gravy, much more gravy. A few spoonfuls of salty brown sauce fill the bottom of the terracotta dish but for a whole Spring Chicken we needed more moisture, as the final mouthfuls were painfully dry.

The steak had a magnificent flavour and was prepared and cooked perfectly to my specification, with a portion of creamy herby Bearnaise sauce on the side. The steak had a lovely charred outer layer and was incredibly juicy inside, the ideal combination. We polished off the 250g portion no problem and spying a nearby table devouring a massive 1kg size… I got a tiny bit jealous.

Overflowing pots of chips arrived, thin and crispy just as I like them. They were a little dry but had a delicious flavour, especially with a sprinkle of salt… perhaps double fried for extra taste, though I’m not sure. Mayonnaise was eventually provided, yellow, creamy and homemade that I used for the chicken too.

It was necessary to try one dessert, luckily only one option really appealed to me from the menu – the Chocolate Rippled Cheesecake. It was bloody good, a dense square of chocolaty goodness with delicate flakes of white chocolate on top sitting on a crumbly, buttery base. Thinking about it is making me hungry again.

A meal for two came to £64 for no starters, a huge main course, one pudding to share and soft drinks.

And so as choice becomes more limited at London restaurants it seems the quality and popularity increases… as an indecisive foodie I am more than grateful for this new easy style of dining.

Visit the website here for more information.

Damien Hirst, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, Gagosian Gallery

Damien Hirst is a master manipulator, and he is currently manipulating across the globe with all eleven Gagosian galleries dedicating their January shows to his innumerable spot paintings. This worldwide exhibition features more than 300 paintings (331 to be exact, a small percentage of the 1,400 in existence) created over twenty-five years designed and created by Hirst and his army of assistants. Hirst himself in fact is known to have only painted five, the other 1,395 done by his dedicated employees. This, of course has raised much controversy, but Hirst ferociously defends his actions claiming: “every single spot painting contains my eye, my hand and my heart.” I thought he was trying to remove himself from pretention?

Included in the exhibitions is the first spots on board that Hirst created in 1986, the smallest spot painting – half a spot measuring 1 x ½ inch created in 1996 (I wish I could see this one!) and the most recent spot painting completed in 2011 containing 25,781 spots that are each 1 millimeter in diameter, with no single colour repeated.

On a cold and dreary Saturday I went along to the Britannia Street gallery with my dad and brother, to join the super cool flaneurs already checking out the spots. We were all a little dazed by it – dotty Hirst canvases of all shapes and sizes cover the walls, not dissimilar to the Cath Kidson January sale display, both are unlimited and easily replicated.

What Hirst is trying to achieve exactly I am unsure, but there are many theories out there… is it a cold hearted and exact experiment? A challenge to the viewer? A satire of the pretentious and demanding art world of today? Simply speaking the dots resemble pharmaceutical pills, lined up all ready for the Hirst hoards to swallow. And I predict the viewers will, especially the tourists.

It is all too easy to criticise the wealthiest artist on the planet, but actually, some of these pictures I found quite satisfying, and even calming. I revelled in the gloss colours and the painstaking precision. They are accessible and fun for the family, I guess, but after the characterful Noble exhibition (that made its home in the Gagosian last), the Hirst spots feel empty and redundant. What I do love about this series of exhibitions is the sense of togetherness, there is a wonderful thing about so many cities all experiencing the same show at the same time.

Oh and the shop is quite good too, though the self important shop assistant seemed hugely out of his comfort zone selling spot t-shirts and other merchandise.

Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 continues across the world until 18 February 2012, more information here. In London at Britannia Street and Davies Street, entry is free.