EU set to grant special status to salmon from East End smokery
First London food, a specialty smoked fish favoured by gourmet chefs, to join the likes of champagne and Parma ham to gain PGI status.
It is the last surviving smokehouse in the East End of London, now housed in a startling pale pink building overlooking the Olympic Park that was designed to look like a cross-section – or darne – of salmon.
Six out of seven mornings a week at 4am, a refrigerated lorry carrying three tonnes of the best quality fresh Scottish salmon delivers its load to Forman & Son, the sole producer of arguably the finest smoked salmon in the world, which is favoured by chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Marco Pierre White and savoured on the menus of the UK’s top restaurants.
Forman’s legendary London Cure smoked salmon is about to boost its credentials further when it will be awarded the highly prized European protected (PGI) status.
It will be the first ever London food to join the illustrious ranks of champagne and Parma ham, which are already part of the EU’s PGI scheme. Protected name status means that under EU law, foods such as Wensleydale cheese or Melton Mowbray pork pies can be produced only in those named parts of the world.
The “cure” is a family recipe devised four generations ago by Harry (Aaron) Forman, the Jewish founder of the firm who arrived in London from Russia in 1905. Using small amounts of rock salt and no sugar and followed by a cold-smoking procedure, London Cure is distinctive for its clean, delicate and “mild” flavour, in contrast to the much stronger flavours popular with traditional Scottish smokehouses. As white-coated staff wheel racks of hanging cured salmon into the vast kilns for smoking, proprietor Lance Forman explains the London Cure method began when a relative discovered fresh wild Scottish salmon at nearby Billingsgate, and developed a cure that complemented its flavour.
“We are the world’s oldest Scottish salmon smokers and we remain faithful to the principles established by my great-grandfather in 1905,” said Forman.
Over the years London Cure has adapted to changing gourmet tastes, pioneering diverse flavours including wasabi and ginger, sweet beetroot, vodka, chilli and lime and even a spicy cinnamon and orange cure for the festive season.
Forman’s application for protected status for London Cure – backed by Defra - has been enthusiastically supported by London mayor Boris Johnson, who opened the factory in January 2009.
The government is keen to encourage further applications, having recently announced plans to more than triple the number of protected food names from 63 to 200. Carmarthen ham, an air-dried ham similar to serrano, which has been produced to a recipe by five generations of the same Welsh family, is likely to be the next UK food application to clear the regulatory hurdles.
Forman’s London Cure smoked salmon graces the menus of the dining rooms in the Lords and Commons as well as the fish counters of top retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, though it dropped Fortnum & Mason last year. But regular hoppers can also buy London Cure smoked salmon from Waitrose, Ocado and some Sainsbury’s branches, and it will be stocked by 100 Tesco stores from October. Forman admits that while he is grateful to the supermarkets for bringing smoked salmon – at an affordable price – to a larger market, “mass production has ruined a very special product. The quality varies enormously and the fish is often very slimy and tasteless”.
Among the many famed London restaurants with London Cure on the menu are The Savoy, Quaglino’s and the refurbished Lanesborough. But Forman’s longest-standing restaurant client is the legendary Wiltons, in St James, which it has supplied for over 100 years. General manager Jason Phillips said: “Our customers ask for London Cure by name. We buy whole sides of it, straight off the rack with strings attached, and we carve and slice it to order at the bar, serving it with just half a lemon in muslin. Simplicity.”