1884 Dock Street Kitchen, Hull, restaurant review

2nd June 2014

'You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it, Charley.” These heart-rending lines are spoken by Terry, the faded prizefighter who threw away his one shot at the big time by taking a dive, in On the Waterfront. They hung in the air as we walked towards 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, a hugely ambitious restaurant on Hull’s marina, as a poignant reminder that dreams of greatness can end in tears in places such as this.

How I coulda imagined that an anguished cri de coeur in a 1954 movie about trade-union brutality in New Jersey might be relevant to a restaurant perched on the Humber in 2014 is a question best devolved to my crack team of psychotherapists. All that need be recorded here is that any concerns about what will become known as “1884” (the year the building was erected as a ropery) were quickly allayed.

Whether it strictly deserves the title accorded to it last November as the best restaurant in Yorkshire – a culinary powerhouse among counties – is debatable. But speaking as a world authority on Hull, on the strength of a recent 36-hour visit with Alexei Sayle to explore its anointment as UK City of Culture for 2017, I can confirm that 1884 fully deserves its current status as Humberside’s destination joint du jour.

This self-confidently theatrical restaurant makes an immediate statement of intent. On arrival, we were bedazzled by the buzz, the high-ceilinged grandeur, and the slickness of a front-of-house operation headed by a maître d’ in a lavishly lapelled Edwardian boating jacket. “I do hope we’re not keeping you from Henley?” I asked. “I’m so glad you noticed the connection,” he said of this nautical garment. “Most people think I’ve just left Hogwarts.”

Call it wizardry, feng shui or whatever, some rooms just feel right, and this vast dining area is one of those. I read on the website, which takes enough liberties with the language to hint at the hand of local hero Lord Prescott, that it was inspired by New York’s Meatpacking District. This you would not guess from the sepia prints of Victorian dock workers, the rich wood panelling or the faddishly spindly chandeliers. The wines are displayed in gigantic glass showcases (the list is broad and excellent, with decent bottles available for £16), and it feels less New Yorky than a hybrid of the grand all-day brasserie and a neo-gentleman’s club. It clearly works. Radiating a distinct talk-of-the-town swagger, 1884 was rammed this Friday night with Humberside’s young and gilded.

Hullite chef-owner James Allcock, an alumnus of Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, makes much on the website of his devotion to fresh ingredients. “The Chef/Patron allows his imagination of dishes to be depicted,” it reveals, “by what is being delivered to him that day. This unique way of setting his menu allows foodies to have a new experience every time they come through the doors…”

We shall pass lightly over the application of “unique” to what is in fact a fairly widespread practice, because a chap who can cook like this one, at his best, deserves some linguistic licence. After a gorgeous amuse-bouche of tomato and pesto soup, I kicked off with crispy lamb sweetbreads with smoked bacon, black trumpet mushrooms and black truffle, with a leaf salad in a fine mustardy dressing. A medley of such opinionated ingredients that might have been overpowering in less-delicate hands was rendered gloriously gentle and coherent. The sweetbreads, from the à la carte menu, earned jealous glances from those on the set menu who began with a less-generous serving of “Jody Scheckter’s buffalo mozzarella”. The 1979 Formula One world champion from South Africa is now a dairy farmer in Hampshire (you have to maintain those adrenalin surges somehow), but this cheese found itself at the back of the grid. “Not so creamy, and very forgettable,” was the un-Murray Walkerish commentary there.

The main courses replicated the starters by veering between the marvellous and the “meh”. North Sea fish pie, with smoked salmon salad, was as vapid and watery as the mozzarella, while veal osso buco (from the set) with risotto Milanese seemed better suited to showing off the chef’s range than lingering in the memory. On the other hand, the regal richness of fallow deer, with a wild mushroom vol-au-vent and glorious smoked pancetta (Allcock has real flair for the cute flourish) was nicely balanced by a light, sharp celeriac purée, while a fillet steak with a blue cheese salad and fat chips cooked in beef dripping was “as good as I can recall. Superb meat, perfectly cooked.” All the puddings were great in the hypercalorific style, particularly a treacle tart with “Stamfrey Farm organic clotted cream”.

The obsession with giving shout-outs to suppliers (as if anyone gets anxiety dreams about the provenance of their cream) was one of several voguish irritants. Square plates may be de rigueur among the meatpackers of New York but they have no business in Yorkshire, while a clutch of purple helium-filled balloons at a nearby table blurred the line between the theatrical and the childish. Even so, neither they nor the odd misstep in the kitchen took the gloss off an engaging, unusually exciting restaurant that does have class, is a contender, and will challenge for major titles from its waterfront berth for a long time to come.

Humber Dock Street, Hull, East Yorkshire HU1 1TB, 01482 222260;1884dockstreetkitchen.co.uk.Three courses à la carte with wine, about £60 per head; three-course set menu: £22

Hull: a city of culture, sharks – and the UK’s firmest mushy peas

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Design firm's project wins top accolade

1st May 2013

East Yorkshire architecture and interior design firm Den Group beat 40 of the region's most impressive property schemes to scoop a top award.

The business took home an accolade from the Royal Institution Of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Pro Yorkshire Awards in the regeneration category for the firm's project 1884 Dock Street Kitchen.

Known as the region's property "Oscars", the prestigious annual contest celebrates inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors.

1884 Dock Street Kitchen was the only private sector finalist shortlisted in the category up against five multi-million-pound public sector projects.

The £1.2m restaurant design created by Den Group is an example of creating sustainability and growth within a geographic area earmarked for regeneration.

Sam Quelch, co-director of Den Group, said: "We were determined to preserve the intricate historical architecture of a dilapidated listed building in a conservation area.

"We insisted on retaining and rebuilding as many of the original features as possible, which had to be redesigned to suit modern materials and workmanship, but we wanted to celebrate one of Hull's most beautiful buildings and the outcome was definitely worth it.

"We never set out to win an award but our passion to regenerate a forgotten part of the city.

"We are overjoyed to receive such a prestigious accolade."

The regeneration accolade – one of eight awards up for grabs on the night – is awarded to a project that has made exceptional improvements to urban, rural or coastal areas.

The winner must have conserved or improved the built or natural environment in a way that has contributed to the viability of the local area.

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In Brief

29th April 2013

City restaurant scoops top property 'Oscar'

awards: Hull Marina's 1884 Dock Street Kitchen beat 40 of the region's property schemes to win the Regeneration Award at this year's Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Pro-Yorkshire Awards.

Known as the region's property "Oscars", the prestigious annual contest celebrates inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors.

The regeneration accolade – one of eight awards up for grabs on the night – is awarded to a project that has made exceptional improvements to urban, rural or coastal areas.

The winner must have conserved or improved the built or natural environment in a way that has contributed to the viability of the local area.

Chair of the RICS Pro-Yorkshire Awards judging panel, Colin Harrop, director at Jones Lang LaSalle said: "Over the years, the RICS Awards have attracted some outstanding and exemplar entries, and despite the ongoing uncertainty of the economic climate, this year was no different.

"The exceptional team behind transforming Hull's former rope factory into 1884 Dock Street Kitchen should be extremely proud of themselves."

finance: The 28,800 tax credits claimants in Hull are being reminded by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that they must renew claims by July 31 – or their payments might stop.

HMRC will start sending tax credit renewal packs to about 5.8m people.

HMRC is also asking claimants to check the accuracy of the information in the pack.

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Celebration of city pioneers

26th August 2011

Wellington Street, in the Freedom Quarter, will be the location for The Den – a fully licensed festival bar that celebrates Hull's pioneers and the aspirations of Freedom.

It's a project that will see The Welly, Fruit and one of the area's leading interior design companies, Den, join forces to create a unique space for festival-goers to quench their thirst and sample some of the new Freedom Ale.

Sam Quelch, managing director of Den Interior Design, said: "The Freedom Festival has always been a success and does the city proud every year.

"It's something that gets the whole city going and brings people into the centre."

Sam, along with creative director Emma Fearn, was asked to come up with a concept for the bar which would depict a celebration of the city's achievements and encapsulate the meaning of Freedom.

Keeping the budget to a minimum, the designers decided on a raw industrial feel to evoke the history of the fruit market.

Sam said: "We settled on a collection of names of Hull people, past and present, who have gone on to be successful.

"Hull gets such a bad rap, but there's a huge amount of people who have come from here. I was shocked myself when I started to do the research."

Among the famous names included will be Maureen Lipman, James Reckitt, Clive Sullivan, Amy Johnson, John Godber, Nick Barmby and David Whitfield, to name just a few. These will be interspersed with words that capture the spirit of the festival, such as pride, hope, power and liberty.

Sam said: "We are keeping it raw and industrial, with simple lighting and huge sheets of chipboard."

The women at Den have been involved in a number of refurbishments around the Marina and the old fruit market and have a real affinity for the place.

"We are proud to be from Hull and have a passion for that area," said Sam.

"The Marina is gorgeous when the sun is shining and all the boats are docked.

"It needs something like this to breathe life into it so people can see what the place could be like.

"With lovely places to dine and drink, we could attract all types of people there and help bring it alive."

David Mays, managing director at Fruit and Welly, is just as keen to be a part of the new-look Freedom Festival. It's the first time these venues have undertaken an event of this magnitude, but it's a challenge he seems to be relishing.

He said: "It's an honour to be asked and it's quite exciting to be involved in something of this scale."

The venues are responsible for three main bars at the event – Freedom Garden, The Den and Prohibition Bar & Grill. Fruit will also be hosting the Beverley Folk Festival @ Freedom on the Friday night and Art Rave, on Saturday, which isn't included in the official programme, but will feature DJs and artists doing live art installations.

For David there's no question that the new approach to this year's event is a positive step in the right direction.

"I think it's the right way forward," he said. "I've just spent a few days at the Edinburgh Fringe, seeing how it runs and how it takes over colleges, gyms and churches.

"If that is the vision for Freedom, over time it could become huge for Hull. It's a unique event that's happening in Hull and there's nothing else like it outside of the city, other than Edinburgh."

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Building transformed as part of developer's new campaign

29th June 2011

A CITY centre building has undergone a dramatic transformation thanks to investment from a local property developer.

25 in South Street – the former Hull headquarters of the Leeds Permanent Building Society – has been transformed inside and out after investment by Horncastle Group Plc.

The move comes as part of a wider campaign launched by the developer, called Gro With Horncastle.

This aims to support and encourage local businesses to expand and reach their full potential.

David Watson, director of the Horncastle Group, said: "Gro With Horncastle is about being more than just a landlord or a developer.

It's about using our business experience to help encourage and support other businesses to grow.

"Andrew Horncastle, for example, is very actively involved with the For Entrepreneurs Only (FEO) group – a group of local, successful entrepreneurs working to create jobs locally by using their experience to help others start and grow their own business.

"Gro With Horncastle is, in part, an extension of that."

He added: "The city centre has its advantages for growing businesses and our objective at 25 is to stimulate more property owners in the vicinity to think about what they can achieve with their buildings and so bring a fresh new life and prosperity to this part of the city."

In addition to encouraging businesses to reach their full potential, Gro With Horncastle also provides a proactively managed property solution, along with a package of support services.

These include helping businesses plan for growth, providing support and guidance on funding, assisting with asset purchase and providing access to new business contacts and marketing support.

As part of the campaign, Horncastle has also invested in its other sites across East Yorkshire, including Tom Thumb Industrial Estate and Unit 5 in Spring Bank West.

"We always try to make our properties quite individual and different to the run of the mill and 25 is a good example of this," added David.

"The campaign itself is also quite an unusual step for a property developer and we believe it is unique. We don't just want to help people find the right property and then not speak to them again until their lease is up.

"Instead, we are looking to work with our clients and build a relationship with them so they can be a success, because if they succeed, so do we."

The major investment saw Horncastle work with local companies Fred Marketing, which delivered the concept and branding along with the design of the building's exterior, and Den, which carried out the interior works and design.

David added: "It is fantastic that we have been able to complete the works at 25 to such a high standard.

"That has been achieved by working with two local agencies, Den and Fred, and using local craftsmen to undertake the work."

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Marina setting for new bistro proves shipshape for siblings

27th October 2010

A STYLISH new bistro has opened on Hull's marina, in the good name of a famous local shipping firm.

Local is the key word for the brother and sister partnership, Vanessa Tomlinson and Michael Wilson, who run The Wilson.

The duo, who are born and bred in Hull and pride themselves on using local produce, named the venue after what was once one of world's biggest shipping firms – The Wilson Line.

Since opening earlier this month, hundreds of people have visited the café restaurant, which also boasts its own blend of coffee, thanks to the Blending Room.

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Alfresco expansion for Hull Marina restaurant The Wilson

They also offer home-made ice cream from Joe Delucci including flavours such as rum and raisin.

Mrs Tomlinson said: "We pride ourselves on offering home-made dishes and use the best locally sourced ingredients available.

"The setting is also beautiful. You could be anywhere at that marina – even Saint-Tropez."

Mrs Tomlinson's role running The Wilson is in stark contrast to her previous roles in sales, while her older brother Michael, has been a publican for 35 years, recently calling time on his role at The Crown in Holderness Road.

"I took a couple of years out to look into a different career," said Mrs Tomlinson. "And now I'm back fast and furious.

"We're doing well considering we haven't really advertised. We thought about the business two years ago and bought the building a year ago, wanting to create a continental café style restaurant."

The Wilson offers a café bar menu from 9am to 7pm, which includes an assortment of home-made cakes, snacks and sandwiches.

From 7pm the establishment becomes fine dining – in which visitors have to book.

In total 12 jobs have been created following the opening.

Mrs Tomlinson added: "I'm really enjoying it. It's brilliant with my brother and we've been working together well.

A major part of the development at Freedom Quay, under apartments, has been the branding and design of the building, which was carried out by interior design agency Den Group, based at the Brough Business Park.

The name, design and theme has been based around the famous shipping firm which was founded in Hull in the 18th century, but closed down in the 1970s, with original pieces and artwork around the bistro.

Mrs Tomlinson said: "We wanted a name which tied in with the marina and being near the water – though we don't personally have any connection to the company.

"It has gained a lot of interest from local people and people connected to the company.

"Hopefully people will be on board and this could be the start of big things for the marina.

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Bringing London bistro style to Hull

25th August 2010

An East Yorkshire interior design agency is helping to create a stylish new bistro on Hull's Marina.

Den Group, based at the Brough Business Park, was contracted to oversee the branding and design of The Wilson, a restaurant under construction at Freedom Quay, due to open in September.

Den, which specialises in architectural and design services for the hospitality, retail, corporate and residential sectors, was approached at the start of the year by Vanessa Tomlinson and Mike Wilson, the brother and sister team behind the new bistro.

Den had been recommended to the pair by one of their past clients, Hull-based accommodation provider Nightel, for whom they designed the new hotel at Humberside Airport.

Mr Wilson and Mrs Tomlinson wanted to create a unique high end restaurant with a different offering to any of the current eateries in Hull.

They gave Den a blank canvas to come up with everything from the primary concept to the finished designs.

Emma Fearn, co-director of Den, said: "They came to us and said that they had found this unit and wanted to turn it into a high end restaurant but didn't know what they wanted it to look like or be like.

"We took it on from the initial concept and we worked on it, researching what was already on offer in Hull and looking at the history of the city and we came across the Wilson Line, which was the largest private shipping company in the world and was a Hull company."

Den decided to base their designs and theme around the famous Wilson shipping firm which was founded in Hull in the 18th century but closed down in the 1970s.

The Den team have used original pieces and artwork from the Wilson Line in their designs for the restaurant.

Work fitting out The Wilson began in June.

Materials such as slate and limestone have been used for the units with top quality finishes.

Miss Fearn said: "We knew it had to be high end, we wanted to bring the sort of bistros that London has to offer to Hull."

Den's role extended beyond the aesthetics of The Wilson, they even helped to select the coffee.

Miss Fearn said: "We even did research into the coffee and met with loads of really big players in the coffee industry like Illy and Lavazzo.

"We tried all sorts of coffee and we have chosen a Hull based coffee company called The Blending Room.

"They are making a Wilson blend."

Den was set up in June 2008 by Sam Quelch and Emma Fearn to provide a one-stop-shop for professional architectural and design services.

It's four-strong team have experience of working for brands such as Costa Coffee, Fitness First, Esporta Health Clubs, AMF Bowling, Champneys Health Resorts, Legoland, Punch Taverns.

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It's a good Nightel all

16th June 2010

An East Yorkshire interior design company has teamed up with a Hull-based accommodation provider to create a new hotel at Humberside Airport.

Den, who are based at the Brough Business Centre, designed the interiors for the new 100-bed hotel which is due to open in July.

The hotel will be run by Nightel, a Hull-based company set up last year to focus on providing accommodation for the offshore oil and gas workers.

It is located just a few minutes walk from the departures terminal in Kirmington and is the first 'on airport' accommodation at Humberside.

The Nightel Hotel is designed to cater solely for the needs of offshore workers and business visitors who pass through the airport daily and will not be open to the general public.

Many of these visitors will be living at the hotel for long periods, flying out to work on the North Sea rigs during the day and returning in the evening.

This meant the hotel had quite specific design requirements and needed a wide range of extra entertainment facilities.

Sam Quelch, managing director of Den Interior Design said: "It was really important that we worked closely with the client on this project to achieve a unique design that provided first class accommodation and suited the hotel's guests.

"Working with the team behind Nightel has been a great opportunity for us as a relatively new business and has allowed us to create something really special and exclusive to Humberside airport."

Den presented their concepts for the hotel to Nightel's managing director Paul Green and won the contract from Nightel in September last year.

They designed the bedrooms and recreation areas which include a pool table, dartboard, cinema, Internet station, gym, Nintendo Wii, coffee bar and restaurant.

Miss Quelch said: "We are really pleased with the completed designs and can't wait for the first guests to stay at Nightel when the hotel officially opens."

The hotel has been built on a temporary basis with the aim of creating a permanent presence if it proves a success.

Paul Green, managing director of Nightel said "I have used Den on previous projects and have always been really impressed with the high standard of work that they produce.

"The Hotel is a large project and Den have managed to successfully capture the modern concept of the hotel in their designs whilst being sympathetic to our requirements.

"I am really excited to finally see the designs come to life, the interiors look fantastic and will offer our guests a really unique experience that is lacking elsewhere in the local area."

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