Resto 32 Here Crouch End, Crouch End

September 17, 2018

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Eight hours of straight cricket is apt to make a man or woman hungry so it was with a ravenous appetite that I sought sustenance in Crouch End on Saturday night. And what’s this? The empty block where the unmissed North African place used to be has been filled by Here Crouch End (who comes up with these names?) which looked classy from the outside; and it turns out from the inside too.* We were welcomed by a charming front of house team who explained what they were up to and how we could get it.

As with Goods Office the offer is tapas so this made for an interesting head to head. Here (really?) is aiming for a higher standard of cooking (so it’s really a bit invidious to make the comparison as they’re trying to find different niches in the market) and this is reflected in the price. Eighteen quid for a sharing plate is not cheap but then when that dish is a superb smoked duck salad it’s hard to begrudge it. I wanted it all for myself.

Not all the dishes are that expensive – the padron peppers were reasonably priced, more numerous and better prepared than those at GOffice. And there’s a much more extensive selection of stuff, from staples like polenta chips or calamari (I liked the batter on the squid, others at our table were less happy) to more unusual fare like the duck. The management philosophy is all about locally sourced, quality products and it really does show in the excellence of the food on offer. And the wine was good too.

This was a second welcome find in the local area within a week and while Here is a little too steep to become a regular outing it is a place I can heartily recommend to ethically conscious north London foodies (I believe there are a few around).

8/10

#Food #London #N8

*We were there for its final night. In order to get coffee my friend Trav went to Tesco and brought some for them to brew up.

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 31 Goods Office, Stroud Green

September 14, 2018

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A welcome addition to the local restaurant scene is Goods Office which nicely fills in the gap between Stroud Green and Crouch End. It replaces, after many years, a previous eatery called the Triangle and as you might guess occupies a triangle-shaped room. This doesn’t make it the easiest space to wrangle table-wise and to be honest I’m not sure the present set up of rows of tables quite works. But it looks to me that they’re still in the teething stage and no doubt a few furnishings will appear too to dampen the rather rattly accoustic.

But what about the food? It’s tapas so we went for a few options each from veg, fish, meat and sides. The stars of the show were a cured mackerel (top quality fish) and beef croquettes. The calamari were also excellent but could have done with a bit of aïoli or similar alongside. Padrone peppers were decent but too few. The rash splurge on a second bottle of wine for the party took the spend above 20 quid a head which is about standard for this side of the tracks of north London.

The service was excellent, really friendly and I hope this place goes from strength to strength – if only because it’ll save me walking that bit further when I want to go somewhere other than Harringay High Street.

7/10

#food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

 

Isokon Gallery, Hampstead

September 5, 2018

Last night I attended an excellent lecture by a good friend, John Law, drawing on material from his latest book 1938: Modern Britain. His thesis is that many of the aspects of modern life that are popularly believed to be post-War phenomena, for example big screen television, were actually in use in the late 1930s. If you want to read more about his work you can go to his homepage here.

The lecture took place in a new location for me, the Isokon Gallery in Hampstead. The Gallery is part of an apartment block which dates from 1934 and therefore was a natural fit for John’s talk which in part dealt with the early career of Basil Spence and his contribution to Modernist pavilions at the Glasgow Imperial Exhibition of 1938.

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Isokon Gallery – they have much better photographs at their website

I would have liked more time to explore the bijou exhibition which the gallery is hosting on the creators of the Isokon development – a pioneering social experiment as well as being an architectural landmark in the history of London – and the many creative people who lived either in the block or very nearby. Just scanning the names reads like a who’s who of the inter-War avant garde.

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As well as panels with information on the lives and careers of the artists, writers, architects and patrons associated with the area there are also examples of their work. You can see in the photograph above items of furniture which embody how theories of rational industrial design translated into beautifully practical pieces for the home. For example, the bookcase above was specificallydesigned for that quintessential 1930s object, the Penguin paperback.

The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays until their exhibition season ends in October and is FREE. You can also take a peek inside the apartments on Open House weekend on the 22nd and 23rd September. Well worth a visit.

Resto 30 Rusty Bike Indian Kitchen, Kings Cross

September 2, 2018

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We were in Kings Cross for the Pablo Held Trio gig at Kings Place. If you haven’t seen the PBT and you like jazz you MUST SEE THEM! I’m not usually so passionate about recommending things to people as I’m of the nature of not being very good at receiving gushy enthusals. But they are extraordinarily good. And from Cologne, a place of which I have very fond memories.

Beforehand we were looking for Indian food but not at Dishoom. The food is excellent in Dishoom but you’re very aware of being served at the hands of a very high quality, mass volume outfit. And when people start taking their suitcases to restaurants its time for the full time resident to find an alternative.

Most Indian outfits in KX do not inspire confidence from the outside. But Rusty Bike is different. It looks like whoever’s in charge has an eye on design and wants to minimise the shab. So we went in.

It’s a small room and at first we were the only customers. We’d BOOB from Waitrose and I asked the guy if that was okay. He gave me a suspicious look and didn’t really reply so I took his silence as assent. When he came along with the menus I asked him for a couple of glasses for the wine which he went off and got.

“You just finished your GCSEs?” he asked my son like in a squinty-eyed spaghetti western-style scrute. My son is 21 (I think! I lose track sometimes.)

‘Last year at uni.’

‘Which one?’

‘Warwick’

This didn’t register.

‘That near Manchester?’

‘No, it’s in Conventry.’

‘Oh, Coventry. You like Coventry, it’s nice yeah?’

We wondered if he was familiar with Coventry.

‘Coventry … that’s Birmingham right?’

‘Yeah, near there.’

This seemed to reassure him and he left us to look at the menu. It is extensive and featured a few things that I liked the look of. We had mixed starters to share and then lamb shashlik, a duck thing and bindhi bhaji. Unlike at the India Club he was happy to sell us a chapati so we took one of them with a plain naan.*

The food was excellent. Succulent meat and proper spicing on the carnivorous side of things but if you’re a veggie I can recommend the bindhi, it was superb. By the time we left the room was filling up. Despite his slight hostility at the outset I liked the waiter. He reminded me of King Baba in his willingness to engage customers in disjointed, slightly surreal conversation. At around fifteen quid a head the Rusty Bike deserves to thrive.

8/10

#Food #London #PabloHeld

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

*The last time we went to the India Club we asked for chapatis and the waiter wouldn’t sell them to us as ‘they take too long to cook’. Which is unusual.

Resto 29 Café Populaire, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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After a morning at the Joan of Arc Experience I was in the mood for a barbecue. Just kidding! No, we were looking for something for lunch less obviously touristy than the previous evening so we gravitated towards the less picturesque side of town. Café Populaire is a pop up located next to a pleasant square beside a modern shopping centre. The whole square is surrounded by restaurants but I liked the look of CP’s terrace so we plonked out front and looked at the menu.

Not all architectural glories are Gothic in Rouen

Again, this was classic bistrot fare and being less ravenous we opted for a single course each. Onglet is always a risky pick. It can be a mouth-wateringly flavoursome, if slightly gristly, cut. More often in my experience you’d need jaws like Mrs Woof to get through a whole onglet, which is why I’ll never eat in Café Rouge again. But I trusted the folks in Rouen as the menu stated that all meat was sourced locally, and having seen a whole shop earlier that day dedicated to Normandy beef I expected high standards.

My confidence was repaid handsomely. It was a high class lump, yeah there was a bit of gristle but the flesh was generous and tasty. Alongside some spuds but I regretted not having ordered a side salad. To drink there was local cider on offer but I stuck to a glass of red.

Service was very good given that there was soon a good crowd of diners (mostly locals) reaching all the way down into the square and it was a joy to enjoy late summer sunshine and watch the Rouennais go by. I hope they convert the pop up into a permanent establishment. In the slim chance that I’ll be in Rouen again I would go back for an evening service.

8/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 28 Le Bistroquet Chez Cédric, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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A testing day once more on the Eurostar – this time because we were two minutes late for check-in and therefore had to wait four hours for the next train to Paris. And cough up 88 quid for the privilege. In fact they fleeced us so swiftly at St Pancras that we still would have had twenty minutes to board our original train. Instead we had to kill four hours in the rain having got up at 6 o’clock in the morning.

I used to be able to tell people that despite its savage reputation I had never been mugged in London. No more. Fortunately the staff at Gare St Lazare were much more accommodating and gave us a fresh ticket for the connection to Rouen at no further cost.

Thus by the time we got to Rouen we were in the mood for prodigious grub and wine. The cathedral in Rouen is open gratifyingly late (until 7 p.m.) so we had a quick pop in there before scouring for food. Le Bistroquet is on a touristy strip of restos right next to the Eglise Saint Maclou.

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Rouen is blessed with a surfeit of Gothic Beauty. While the room at the back of Le B seemed more convivial, packed with locals in fact, the rather less busy space at the front had the advantage of the view of St M so we were glad when the waitress seated us there. I guess if you’re Rouennaise you take that shit for granted.

The menu is typical French fare with a bias towards local produce – exactly what I was looking for. Up front I thought I’d ordered pigs’ innards but what I got was terrine. I wasn’t complaining though, it was a lumpy lumpy of chunky with cornichons which had fresh bread alongside with which to transport it to my mouthole. A main of pollock was good as well but not as good as the king-size chicken leg across the way. We rounded it off with a heavy dosage of Neuchâtel cheese and with a red burgundy to help it down the problems of the a.m. were a distant memory.

Service was efficient without being especially outstanding. I’m assuming it was Cédric of Chez Cédric who ruled corpulently over the room. He seemed a character. I liked Le B, especially when the bill came in at a surprisingly moderate 60-odd euros. The ability of good food, wine and company to assuage middle class woes is something that I am very aware of and never take for granted.

7/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 27 Machiya, Leicester Square

August 19, 2018

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Panton Street is the go to place for a quick, reasonably priced lunch in the West End so it’s inevitable that it will be redeveloped at some point soon. So I recommend that you get down to Machiya soon to enjoy the best of a pretty good bunch of Asian eateries slewn together on the south side of the street.

It’s taken a while for me to go to Machiya as there’s usually a queue out the door so were lucky this time to be able to walk straight in. The room is crammed with tables so this isn’t the place to come and discuss a sensitive business deal or dump a lover but it’s ideally suited for a lunchtime gossip, or indeed a solo mission.

The food is the usual Japanese selection of katsu, ramen and sides. They also do small plates if you want to share a variety of stuff. I went for the chicken katsu and it was the best I’ve ever had. The gorgeously juicy meat and fluffy crunchy batter was just perfect. On the side I had a pickled seaweed salad that was also perfectly prepared. A draught Kirin helped it down admirably and for fifteen quid a head Machiya offers better value than the higher profile Shoryu around the corner. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 26 Kappeli, Helsinki

August 15, 2018

My first visit to Helsinki was in 1994 so it’s taken me 24 years to drum up the effort to go to Kappeli. Or indeed the coin. But I’m glad that I did.

The venue is legendary for Sibelius fans (I’m one of them). This is where he chummed up, scoffed and bantered before doing more self-wreckage across the way in the Hotel Kamp.

One can’t expect the same atmosphere to prevail 140 years on but I would have preferred not to have Mussorgsky piped into the karsi (much as I love Pictures at an Exhibition). Why not Kullervo?

The dining room though is a joy. Glass everywhere to watch people strolling by. A corner tête à tête room shut with a sparrow flapping within as if part of an installation. Solid burghers of Helsinki munching beside upscale tourists. And our Anglo-Finnish party to confuse the waitresses.

The food was solid Nordic grub. A green salad up front with pickled cucumber the star, followed by a beautifully smoked salmon (in Kappeli’s own smokery) with proper allotment style spuds on the side. But a paucity of broccoli. Dessert of a baked Alaska style ice cream with summer fruit could have done with more (wild) blueberries and fewer strawbs.

The wine list is solid and overpriced. I don’t believe that K’s sommelier does much travelling. But then this is an Institution and unlike Pegasus the need is not there to find a clientèle. It queues at the door. Which may also explain the lack of charm on the service side of things.

All the same it’s worth going to more than once. For the terrace. And probably for the cafeteria side. The quality of the food there looked as good, if not better, than in the restaurant.

7/10

#Food #Helsinki

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 25 Pegasus, Tallinn

August 14, 2018

Tallinn has a wealth of mediaeval architecture dating from its time as a prosperous Hanseatic town but I must admit that I was more interested in getting a handle on the Soviet-era attempts to fix a modernist mask to the mercantilist frame of the city.

The Soviet-era concrete of the civic centre; crumbling faster than the Turkish economy

While the appeal of the 1970s Lenin centre was that of being able to stare, Oxymandias-like, at the mighty works of the USSR and pity the hubris it was not all crap-concreted elephantism during the rule of the Reds in Estonia.

For example, the building in which Pelican is situated is a beautiful piece of Soviet modernism with cute idiosyncratic touches like the porthole windows through which we could peek from our terrace seats into the bar.

I wanted to go to Pelican for the architecture and the history. This was a centre for political dissent during Soviet rule. In these days of the revival of the strongman in politics it does no harm to celebrate the achievements of those who were individually weak but collectively strong in the past. Would that their like may triumph again in our own age.

So the location is perfect at Pelican. Could the restaurant live up to it? You betcha. Starting with the welcome. Our waiter was cheerfulness personified and attentive to detail, giving us a couple of rugs (unprompted) in case the weather turned chill.

He also kicked things off with complimentary home cooked bread. This was warm from the oven and accompanied by a slather of creamy butter. Good thing.

The menu features seasonal Baltic ingredients but we kicked off with a mozzarella salad to have a touch of the Med in Eesti. High quality mozz, olive crumble stuff and basil juice (?!) was a good warm up for the main event.

Which was whitefish for both of us. Well cooked fish, beetroot crisps, good gherkin and a fennel foam (better than usual foam in the coherency department) which took us back to the north of Europe. Delish.

So good in fact that we ordered dessert, tempted on my side by rhubarb, which came pickled with a lot of good things alongside.

All of this was accompanied by an excellent Slovenian wine which would have cost double in London. I obviously wasn’t the only one who was enjoying the drink as when I went to the jakes a mature lady, on exiting the trap, walked straight into the full length mirror at the end of the corridor.

The whole was not cheap by Estonian standards. But quality is worth paying for. If you’re heading to Tallinn I would strongly advise you to resist the cluster of tourist traps around the main square, and anywhere where the service is wenchish, and go for the cool modernist vibe of Pelican. You won’t regret it.

9/10

#Food #Tallinn

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Musset update!

August 6, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Doing a bit of housekeeping on the homepage I noticed that last year I put a copy of the script for the festival on the Corbyn Island post. So if you want to download this year’s Musset translation click A Door (Should Be Open Or Shut).

If you’re interested in producing the play please contact me at geoffreylevett@me.com


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