London Branch at Forman’s

In Event Reports, IWFS London Blog by ashepherdiwfs

Friday 5th July saw the London Branch make a return visit to H. Forman & Son following the success of the previous visit in 2018 as part of the Triennial Festival.

Founded in 1905, H. Forman & Son is a family business, and one of the last, if not the last, traditional Smoked Salmon producers in London. Located next door to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Fish Island (named after the local road names) in a striking modern salmon pink building shaped like a darne of salmon.

Lance Forman, Managing Director and fourth generation owner of the business, provided a fascinating introduction highlighting the history of the firm and the challenges of leading it through numerous challenges including fire, flood, covid, and the most challenging of all, the London 2012 Olympic games. He also provided an interesting insight into how the perception of smoked salmon as a luxury product has been impacted in recent years, especially among catering professionals and younger generations, as the product has become cheaper and more widely available. The business is now split between wholesale (supplying many high-end restaurants and shops (including Fortnum & Mason) plus a retail side including direct sales which experienced significant growth during and following the pandemic. Products are also exported with the USA and Hong Kong being the two largest export markets.

The visit continued with a tour of Forman’s smokehouse with an explanation of the processes involved in producing smoked salmon and a view of the kilns in action. All production is done by hand by the skilled in-house team. We were then treated to an entertaining as well as highly informative smoked salmon carving demonstration by their carving expert, Darren Matson. As well as a large supply of one-liners, Darren demonstrated expert knife skills and a Guinness world record for salmon preparation! The demonstration showed the initial preparation of the fish including de-boning and salting pre smoking. Daren then demonstrated the different cuts available from the smoked fish, including D-cut and lateral, and how different styles, such as fatty or lean, are obtained. Interestingly no part of the fish was wasted, with different parts of the fish being used for different food products, and anything else being used in non-food products or for bioenergy.

The smokehouse visit was followed by an excellent lunch. For starters we enjoyed a very generous salmon tasting plate with Lance Forman providing a tutored tasting of different types and cuts. These included London cure, beetroot cure, royal fillet, gin and tonic salmon, dill gravadlax, wasabi and ginger cure, black truffle infused fillet and salmon jerky. The starter was accompanied by Balfour Leslie’s Reserve NV, an English sparkling wine. The following two courses were all from the Forman and Field range of products. The main course options were Smoked Haddock Fishcake, Poached Free Range Egg and Salad or Gourmet Truffle & Leek Macaroni Cheese. Dessert options were Forman’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Pot with Peanut Brittle or Mrs Forman’s Baked Cheesecake Pot with Blueberries. The main course was accompanied by Biddenden Ortega, an English still white wine.

Balfour’s Leslie’s Reserve Brut is a classic traditional method sparkling wine with elegant purity and fresh acidity. Predominantly Chardonnay, with citrus, green apple and brioche flavours. The wine’s distinctive aromatic and spicy character is in created with the addition of a small percentage of Pinot Gris to the blend. Every parcel is handpicked and pressed separately before blending to create Leslie’s Brut signature style. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks and full malolactic fermentation before ageing on lees for a minimum of 12 months.

Biddenden was one of the first vineyards to plant Ortega in the UK in the late 1960’s. Today Ortega covers just over half of the vineyard. Ortega grapes ripen early and are known for their low acidity and high sugar levels. Semi-aromatic on the nose, displaying appealing fresh aromas of green apple, grapefruit, cut grass and flora, whilst the palate is medium bodied, crisp and fruity.

Maybe the most surprising fact of the day – don’t serve lemons with quality smoked salmon!

William Arthur
IWFS London Branch