Image: Issy Oakes
May 25 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
There are many things that are handy to have on your doorstep, but one of the more unusual, and delightful, ones is a salmon-smoking chamber. I’ve been passing my next-door neighbour, Ole Hansen, every day for the past few months, curious as to what he’d been doing in the small shack he’d built attached to a warehouse full of artists’ studios in Stoke Newington, north London. I frequently see him cutting a 6ft 5in Norwegian dash in wellington boots and a rubber apron enjoying a glass of wine at a table in our communal alleyway on a sunny afternoon. I discovered that after living in the warehouse as a student, he went on to build a smokehouse on-site for salmon, carrying on a family tradition that dates back to 1923.
I recently ordered a 650g Queen Maud Royal Fillet (£40) from his Hansen & Lydersen smokery and, rather than have him drop it around (he offers mail order, but I can see his front door from mine), I went around to collect it and to take a look at how he operates. Ole (second picture) was taking it out of the kiln just as I arrived. He hung it up, trimmed it, wrapped it in paper for me and an hour later it became lunch for a group of friends at my house, all of whom were in raptures.
I note from the blackboard in Ole’s kitchen that as well as selling his wares at Broadway Market on a Saturday, he supplies some of east London’s best dining rooms, including Nuno Mendes’ Michelin-starred Viajante. The cottage-industry romance of what he’s doing aside, Ole’s salmon really has a sublimely delicate flavour. He smokes with juniper and beech wood, not an electrical generator, and the salmon are smoked less than 48 hours after being fished from sustainable stock at Loch Duart in Scotland. These fish will certainly be making a regular appearance on my dining table.