by Adam Coghlan
One of the more intriguing culinary experiments we’ve seen in some time comes from an unlikely source: award-winning architecture and design practice AL_A. With Tincan—a new six-month-long temporary restaurant and shop in London’s Soho area—the establishment aims to source and showcase the finest (tinned) seafood from around the world and to pilot innovations in both design and technology. Although the idea was conceived in Lisbon (and many of the products are Portuguese), there are tins from all over the world, including smoked cod liver from Iceland.
Inspiration struck when the AL_A team was designing a cultural center in Lisbon and discovered a former fishing tackle shop which doubled as a little tinned seafood restaurant. It’s no coincidence that many of the products boast handsome packaging, not least when they are displayed collectively—with the technicolored eclecticism of the branding seducing passersby.
Of the many lovely things about Tincan is that it’s a truly meticulously edited collection, culled from a much larger one. As such, the team can confidently claim that a particular variety of anchovy will “probably be the best you ever eat.” Having experienced it ourselves, we can attest that statement could actually be an understatement: the anchovies had been cured to the point of an almost honeyed sweetness—somehow not fishy, but also distinctly and traceably from the sea. Admittedly at £18 a tin, you should certainly expect quality, which you will find in other products from the same producer—Don Bocarte from Cantabria—as well as from the rest of Tincan’s assortment.
There is no kitchen on site; just a bar, and all orders come with bread, finely-diced shallots, chopped parsley, lemon and olive oil. Two red and two white wines are available as well—of the whites, a deliciously crisp Vinho Verde is perfectly suited to the oily seafood. Plus, the world’s first beer made with seawater, Er Boqueron, is on offer.
The all-black interior acts as a bold carte noir, allowing the tins to easily, and deservingly, dominate the design aesthetic. Everything from the LG OLED lights (which use the thinnest light source in existence), wall displays, tables and chairs have been designed specifically for the space. All surfaces are produced in DuPont Corian, an original high-tech material without seams that is extremely durable, versatile and hygienic. As one would expect, details are everything, which is perhaps best illustrated in the tiny indentations in the bar, which act as integrated magnetic phone chargers. In one sense, Tincan could not be more modern, yet it’s simultaneously a restaurant dependent on one of the most old-fashioned forms of food conservation. No matter how you categorize it, it is a most unusual joy.
Tincan is now open at 7 Upper James Street, W1F 9DH. Reservations are not necessary.
Images courtesy of Paul Winch Furness