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Meet the fish smoker: Lance Forman of H. Forman & Son

By Felicity Williams  |  September 20, 2021
Lane Foreman of H. Forman & Son

Known for offering the finest London cure smoked salmon, H. Forman & Son has built a reputation that’s built on a century of excellence. Founded in 1905, by Lance Forman’s great-grandfather, Aaron ‘Harry’ Forman, he established the family business with his son, Louis, in London’s East End. A Russian émigré with a family to provide for, Harry saw potential in the curing of fresh Scottish salmon, the king of fish.

The duo convinced London’s foremost culinary establishments that smoked Scottish salmon was a gourmet delicacy, and soon their fish was stocked well-heeled clientele, from Fortnum & Mason to Selfridges, Harrods, and The Ivy to name a few. Fast forward to current day, and with Lance at the helm, the smokehouse still has a whole host of discerning retailers under its belt and is growing, providing to supermarkets, such as Waitrose, as well as luxe delis, and not forgetting the leading chefs, and even the Orient Express.

A century later H. Forman & Son remains a family business, and here, Lance is upholding traditional values and skills that the company was built on. We hear about his family, the principles of the company, and where we can try his luxury goods.

Lane Foreman of H. Forman & Son
Lance Forman is a world famous salmon smoker

Tell us about the heritage of H. Forman & Son’s.

H.Forman & Son was started by my great grandfather back in 1905 in London’s East End. We are now the world’s oldest producer of smoked salmon. Many people think smoked salmon is an ancient Scottish tradition, but it was the salmon which came from Scotland married together with the London Cure which made smoked salmon one of the most popular gourmet foods across the entire western world through the 20th century.

In fact our London Cure Smoked Salmon became the first ever London based food (or drink) to receive the amazing accolade of protected status, which puts it on the map with Champagne and Parma Ham. Anyone enjoying smoked salmon in London ought to be eating London Cure – you wouldn’t drink Prosecco if you were in the Champagne region of France!

What are you best known for, and what are your best sellers?

We are best known for our London Cure Smoked Salmon, which is very delicate. The point of smoking wild salmon 100 years ago was not to overpower this amazing creature with a smoky flavour. The aim was to preserve the fish by salting and air-drying and the smoke was simply to provide a protective seal once the fish was cured. In recent years we have diversified and we make a huge range of bespoke artisan foods. Some of these are made for high ned restaurants, hotels and caterers and many we sell through our online arm formanandfield.com which was set up 20 years ago.  

H. Forman & Son smoked Scottish salmon
The company is home of the world famous London cure smoked Scottish salmon

Which are your favourite recipes?

One of my favourite products is our black truffle infused Royal Fillet of smoked salmon. The Royal Fillet is like the ‘fillet steak’ of smoked salmon; the finest cut. We have won numerous awards for this product, and the black truffle infusion takes it to an even greater level, being careful not to overpower the salmon. It’s a perfect balance and heaven on a plate for lovers of both smoked salmon and truffles. One of the finest restaurants in the USA, the Lahaina Grill in Maui, serve this product and can’t get enough of it!

What do you love most about your job?

When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I smoke salmon, it always brings a smile to their faces – so much better than being a lawyer, accountant or banker (no offence to any of those). Seriously, producing a product which you can be proud of that everyone loves whilst continuing the family history is what gets me up in the morning. We also have a great team here who consider themselves as part of our one big happy Forman’s family. When I arrive at work each day, I have a small taste just to check everything is perfect – since I started in the business, I have now eaten over three times my body weight in smoked salmon, just on those small samples, which is why I’m so healthy – all those omega 3’s!

What are the guiding principles of the company?

Quality through and through. That means we never compromise our standards, say, in order to arrive at a cheaper price. Quality is what has kept us in business for 116 years. Whether it’s the freshness of the fish we source, the great work environment for our staff, or the unrivalled service we give our customers, quality counts above everything. High up on our principles is ‘zero waste’ – it’s good business sense. We have been working on a project in the last four years to tan our smoked salmon skins, completely naturally, into leather. It’s fantastic!

smoke salmon bagels
The Forman family has been curing and smoking fish in the East End of London since 1905

You supply the best chefs, which establishments/chefs do you currently provide?

Some examples in different areas:

  • Shop – Harrods, Selfridges, Wholefoods, Waitrose
  • Restaurant – Bellamy’s (it’s not Michelin, but it’s Her Majesty’s favourite – where she had her 90th birthday); Hyde (Ollie Dabbous), Jean Georges at The Connaught
  • Hotel – Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison, Four Seasons, Nobu
  • Other – Royal Opera House, Orient Express Train

And we export all over the world.

Are there any plans to add to your offerings? And if so, what are you looking to expand on or incorporate?

Never a day goes by when we are not concocting a new recipe. Our latest, given the growth in veganism, is a vegan smoked salmon which we are calling London Cure Faux Salmon. It looks the part and tastes delicious. Vegan’s certainly won’t feel left out when the canapés come round!

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Tel: 0208 5252 399
Website: formans.co.uk