Tucked away near the Tower of London, St Katharine’s Dock is a bit of a discovery, with Dokke just one of the restaurants that combines a stylish marina-side setting with good eatsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
During National Honey Week (22-28 October) Dokke owner and head chef Neil Wager created a menu of honey-inspired dishes to showcase the gorgeous local St Katharine’s Docks SKD honey, made from 50 different local pollens.
Citrusy, flowery and subtly minty, it’s the ideal foil for Neil’s Asian fusion food. The bees live in hives on top of International House Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as SKD chief beekeeper Camilla Goddard joked, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the perfect bee penthouse, prime real estate overlooking the Tower of London with the bees covering a radius of up to five miles, supplying one or two harvests per yearÃ¢â‚¬Â.
So what was on the menu? A luscious sweet, sour, citrus and floral G & Bee cocktail of Half Hitch gin, Cointreau, SKD honey, lemon and elderflower preceded a starter of St Katharine Dock’s infused honey and miso-cured Orkney salmon with kohlrabi. This was light and flavourful, the kohlrabi’s crunch and slight sourness offsetting the richness of the fish.
The main was another triumph. Honey Szechuan pepper beef short ribs cooked for 48 hours were falling off the bone. They matched well with the rich honey and pepper sauce and crisp pickled cucumber and mooli alongside.
Chicken was next up. Here, Vietnamese garlic chicken was combined with crunchy bean sprouts, Manuka honey and soy walnuts, again cleverly balancing the sweetness of honey with salty soy. Then, to finish, honey and yuzu iced parfait, served with sake.
Guests also enjoyed a unique honey tasting and talk from St Katharine Docks’ chief beekeeper, Camilla Goddard.
She works as a beekeeper all over London, looking after 70 hives from the Garrick Club to Bank of America, and teaches beekeeping, often in schools.
Apparently there’s been a recent surge of interest in beekeeping as people think more about sustainability and the environment, with the capital now boasting around 1000 amateur beekeepers.
She fell into beekeeping almost by accident. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A friend bought a hive and we started keeping bees. I didn’t realise that the colony had a following trait and they’d follow us everywhere. I started keeping bees and then people started to ask if I could collect swarms, keep bees, make honey. So it grew from thereÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In central London the hives are usually high up to be safe Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Bank of America has a big field of lavender on the roof, the Garrick Club houses its bees on a kind of promontory on the roof Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or hidden away in protected churchyards.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Much of the nectar comes from trees. Different flowers and nectar sources make for different colour and flavour. In London it starts out light and citrusy, but as the year goes on it becomes richer, more complex, darker and almost caramelly.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A minty honey will have come from lime trees. The bees seek out trees with nectar that’s high in sugar, such as tree of heaven. They see London as a landscape of opportunity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
For people who want to help bees, she strongly advocates planting blocks of bee-friendly plants such as flowering herbs, purple or yellow flowers, and single flowers for easy access, such as salvias, lavender, cotoneaster, buddleia, foxgloves, lilies and cotoneaster.
Our honey-themed evening was rounded off sweetly by a honey tasting that included a mango honey from St Lucia in an old rum bottle, as well as New Zealand clover honey, the lovely light St Katharine’s Dock honey and varieties from Greece, Spain and London. The diversity was delicious.
For more on Dokke, visit www.dokke.co.uk