Sunday, 26 May 2013


Among the many businesses displaced by the arrival of the Olympic Park is the Forman and Field Salmon Smokery - the oldest such smokery in London.  Now, a newly built salmon-shaped and salmon-coloured building, created courtesy of Seb Coe and his Committee, sits glowing resplendently on the banks of the River Lea, across the water from the main Stadium, under the foundations of which lies the earlier site of Forman and Field. 

This is not the first journey in the life of the company, however. Harry (Aaron) Forman left the Ukraine at the start of the last century in search of a new life. He brought with him well-honed knowledge and skills, starting his eponymous fish smokery in Stepney in 1905 to serve the Jewish communities settled in the East End.  The business was transformed by the discovery of fresh salmon from Scotland, rapid delivery made possible by the burgeoning train links. The leap in quality was profound: compare salt cod with the fresh variety and you get the idea. Suddenly, there was no need for the very heavy smoking that had been used to disguise the effects of the lengthy salting that preserved salmon imported (a costly and time-consuming journey) from the east, and a new style of smoked salmon was born.
H Forman and Sons, as it has become with the passing of the generations, has gone from strength to strength, growing and relocating to Ridley Road, Dalston and then to Hackney Wick and the Hackney Marshes before its most recent move to Fish Island. The fame of the distinctive London Cure (much lighter in both salt and smoke) has spread beyond the Jewish East End diaspora and onto the finest tables in  the land.
The business has stayed in the Forman family throughout; pride in hard-earned family traditions and the pursuit of high quality shines through in the firm, lightly salted and smoked salmon, descendants of the Odessa fish on which Aaron learnt his craft. Lance Forman (great-grandson of Harry) now runs the company which is continuing to grow and evolve. The new building has added a restaurant (which champions English food and drink), bar and art gallery, but nothing gets in the way of the core business. Even in today's highly mechanised world, much of the work here is still done by hand, including the painstaking removal of the pin bones.Every so often, Forman and Field runs Open Days and visitors can watch the transformation of fresh fish into high quality smoked salmon.  See film of the whole procedure here. The skills that arrived from the east with Aaron all those years ago are flourishing almost unchanged, as salmon are filleted, salted overnight and then smoked. The "factory" is silent as there are virtually no mechanised stages to the process: it is almost all done by hand in the good old-fashioned way.
But attention to detail remains the key; "smoking" is carefully managed with wood quality and temperature controlled to give off the right amount of smoke for perfect flavour and moisture; even packaging is still done by hand, a final check that each separate piece of fish is perfect.
And perfection brings its own rewards, as the latest Forman and Field press release reveals:
"We are delighted to have had our “London Cure” smoked salmon specially selected to be enjoyed at the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace this July.   
Being served in the form of a ‘paupiette’; a smoked salmon parcel, Buckingham Palace describes H Forman & Son, as ‘London’s Finest Smokery’.  
Why thank you ma’am.  We are most honoured. 
A starter fit for a Queen."

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