A brave, newly-built restaurant – on a rather obscure north-Islington site – which has attracted some very positive press reviews; on our early-days visit, the food – which has a touch of the ‘fusions’ about it – did not quite live up to expectations.
e don’t like knocking brave new first-time ventures, but we would have to admit that we were underwhelmed by our visit to this hard-edged north London newcomer. It didn’t help that this is a new-build establishment whose mainly-glass design seems to have been predicated on the notion that global warming is soon to give Islington the feel of, say, Miami’s South Beach. Perhaps it will, but on a north-London lunchtime when the weather was still notably cold and grey, the place just felt, well, cold and grey.
Another bad-luck start was that the establishment has arrived to a chorus of positive reviews elsewhere, so we made the (not inconsiderable) trip expecting to find standards some way above the ‘local’ norm. Initially, at least, there was some hope that these might be realised. Vegetable tempura, for example, were quite interesting. Slightly less encouraging was the bread. Full marks for making the sweet and slightly chewy rolls in-house, but quality was unremarkable.
It was, however, when an unbidden inter-course arrived – this was only Saturday lunch, after all – that the alarm bells really began to sound. Was this a restaurant with ideas above its station? Sadly, the texture of the sorbets themselves – fudge-like rather than invigorating – tended to confirm that it was.
It was the main courses, however, that made us really begin to wonder where those positive reviews had come from. Fish, chips and mushy peas is one of those perfect kitchen competence tests, and our plate frankly flunked it. Various pasta dishes – of which we accidentally ordered rather more than intended – were also generally unimpressive. A dish of duck ravioli, anointed with something of the appearance of gravy, looked particularly unappealing.
For pudding, even basics were not done quite right: a crème brûlée, for example, had no hard ‘hat’ at all. Bread-and-butter pudding – not a bad dish in itself – was intentionally served cold. To our mind, this was rather a clear example – given the weather – of wrong-headendess, and a sort of metaphor for how this is somehow a restaurant with the warmth and comfort taken out.
For our money, a format that was simpler, cheaper and – frankly – less pretentious would better suit the building, the décor and the area, as well as the level of skill we saw demonstrated in the kitchen. On the last point, of course, it could have been the chef’s day off…