Near Camden Lock, an edgy-but-smart American bar/diner de luxe; it offers good standards across the board, but not – to our mind – any particular reason to seek the place out.
Visit the website for this anonymously-named American-style grill-restaurant, and what are you supposed to think? Edgy? Anarchic? Very, well, Camden Town?
Or, if a cynic, you might suspect the website is trying so hard to be edgy that there must be lots of corporate dosh behind it. In which case, you may be closer to the truth: this is the latest venture from Des McDonald, a former Caprice group supremo, and who seems to have located a vein of serious money enabling him quickly to establish himself as a major restaurateur in his own right.
You can take a boy out of the West End, it seems, but you can’t take the West End out of the boy: when you enter this supposedly down-home-style establishment, you can’t help noticing just how incredibly smooth and considered everything is – even the monochrome edginess. As at Jackson & Rye and Balthazar, for example (to name two Richard Caring productions at random), lots of money has being spent to create an elegant simulacrum of bohemian style, as seen through a Downtown NYC prism.
And very comfortable the result is. This is an elegant space with solid furnishings, some very inviting-looking banquettes for larger parties, and friendly and accommodating staff too. The place no doubt hums on a weekend evening.
In the end, though, the fauxness slightly got to us. (It perhaps doesn’t help that, as regular readers will know, we’ve had it up to here with this let’s-pretend-we’re-in-the-Big-Apple thing. It was fun for a while’)
We sampled only a small proportion of a menu that’s long and quite diverse, but everything we had was very much of a piece – fine if you’re hungry, or to complement the copious booze selection, but nothing particularly to write home about.
Pit-smoked beef hash with fried duck egg? Slipped down happily, but without causing much excitement. A starter dish trendily presented in a small zinc bucket – which, in a less style conscious time and place, would probably have been called ‘scampi’ – was no particular improvement on the basket-in-a-pub version of fond memory. Pit-grilled pineapple with lime sorbet? Pleasant enough too, but Heston – with his custom rôtisserie for that exotic fruit – has nothing to worry about.
So, if you’re looking for Camden Town’s answer to the Caprice, this is quite possibly it. We’re not quite sure, though, when such an occasion would ever arise.