As someone who eats out far more often than I eat in – I have to confess to succumbing to that certain ennui, compounded by the carb-heavy haze induced by the recent onset of the festive season.
But I was quite literally (and altogether pleasantly) jolted out of my reverie recently, in no small part due the tongue-tingling effects of the buzz-button which spelled the start of an utterly entrancing afternoon at Dokke…
Idly located on the gentle waterfront of St Katharine Docks, the contemporary restaurant is helmed by Neil Wager, a chef with extensive experience as a luxury private island specialist. If you’re wondering about what the title entails, Wager is the go-to person for kitting out, staffing and training kitchens at high profile resorts and islands across the world – from the Seychelles to Cambodia.
His globe-trotting travels manifest in a fusion cuisine at Dokke, rooted in distinctly Asian influences but with an unequivocal emphasis on seasonally foraged ingredients.
The colourful compositions spring to life in an island kitchen, leading off as a natural extension of the rustic, living room set-up of the restaurant. The unaffectedly-relaxed atmosphere is one that has us feeling at home right away, set at ease by the sincere warmth and friendliness of Dokke’s team.
Settled in the sun-drenched setting – looking out onto the Marina – we’re lulled into a momentary stillness as we breathe in the unimaginably tranquil setting which seems a world away from the busy bustle of Tower Bridge nearby.
A deceptively-delicate flower bud from a Sicuan pepper does wonders in awakening us.
Ceremoniously presented at the start of the meal, this “buzz button” is absolutely astonishing in the electrocuting manner in which it tingles every last nerve of our palate – causing a near-numbing sensation, followed quite literally by salivation. The last note is a clean-tasting one, signalling that our appetite is well and truly whet for the adventures to follow.
Highlights include a “Walk In The Forest” – a thoughtfully-curated throng of seasonally-foraged mushrooms spanning from chanterelles and trumpets, to morels, wild oysters and pom pom mushrooms.
More earnest still, is the painstaking pairing of each fungi with a corresponding herb to enhance the overall flavours. There are Sri Lankan peppery leaves and English wasabi (a.k.a. scurvy grass), sea blades, Oxeye daisy leaves and deep-fried reindeer moss (which tasted surprisingly like potatoes!). Truth be told, I’d never heard of (let alone tried) many of these mushrooms or herbs, so dish is quite a self-contained education.
Also revelatory is Dokke’s signature cloud egg, prepared as you would a meringue (but sans sugar) by whisking and baking egg whites, followed by another quick bake in the oven – this time with the egg yolk plopped neatly in the centre.
The result is airily-light, with a delicate soufflé-like texture that’s bolstered by the bold and beautiful trimmings encircling the plate. The wreath-like ring features an avocado mash humming with kimchi, superlatively-fresh asparagus, fried kale and edible flowers… It’s absolutely bewitching.
The time-old tradition of “breaking bread” also receives an ethereal lift in the form of a charcoal-infused sourdough (sourced from the local Wapping Sourdough) festooned with labneh, cheese, pomegranate and blackberries and curled up avocado. Foraged toppings feature heavily, bellowing with a kick of togarashi.
The vivacious assembly is one of the new dishes soon to be introduced as part of the weekend brunch menu, designed with a sharing concept in mind.
Spontaneous creations and off-menu items are very much par for the course here, inspired by Neil’s artistic direction and catering to the imaginative whims of regulars and locals.
Enlivening the afternoon even further, are the stories we swap with Neil and his business partner, Emma! Before we know it, the afternoon has floated by in easy chatter over awe-inspiring dishes which are as unique as they are adventurous!
If you’re looking for a sterling change from the ordinary, I’d definitely recommend this neighbourhood secret in St Kats Docks for your next weekend foray.
Dokke, Ivory House, East Smithfield London, E1W 1AT
Explore more of St Kats Docks in my dedicated guide, here.