Posts Tagged ‘Finsbury Park’

Resto 41 My Cottage Cafe, Finsbury Park

November 22, 2018

Finding ourselves once again in Finsbury Park on a Saturday it was with a sorry glance that we walked past the now boarded up Walnut to on our search for dinner. Pasta Remoli‘s curious way with food is still quite vivid so we thought we’d try Lebanese at My Cottage Café. As it seems did everyone going to the theatre that evening (we were not) meaning that we were lucky to get two places at a shared table.

The room is bigger than it looks from the outside and the food is more ambitious than the monicker My Cottage Café would have you believe. The last time I was in a Lebanese (insert joke here) it was in Mayfair and I was talking to a tiny, aged Jewish man with a statuesque wife 40 odd years his junior who had been Cy Twombly’s (among others) art dealer in New York. This wasn’t quite the same clientèle, though this being North London theatreland we weren’t short of Jewish company. Just no Naomi Campbell lookalikes. Which was a shame.

The menu was typically east Mediterranean – meze, grilled things and stews – but the cooking was a cut above Petek up the road for about the same price. A massive plus was not being offered death by bread before we’d even ordered. The bread when it came was a refined flatbread in just the right amount. Starters of baba ganouj and okra were excellent, as was the chicken shish. Plenty of heat on the baste meant recourse to a very good Lebanese white was required.

Our table-sharers were a gossipy couple of old baggages who managed to eat three courses before we’d ordered coffee. They indulged in some faux-bants with some fellow codgers across the way and when an elderly lady with an improbably wide Zimmer frame tried to exit the building my neighbour resolutely stared at the wall rather than move her seat. However, ZimmerGal was equally obdurate and deftly span her frame sidewards, all the while scowling at our pair like they’d just shot her cat. The theme from Larry David began to play through my mind.

In five minutes flat the room was empty of theatre-goers leaving just us two to sip a beautiful coffee (which arrived with four baklava) while the waiting staff took a well earned fag break outside. It took a while to get the bill but that was the only fault in an otherwise faultless service.


#Food #London

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

Resto 37 Walnut, Finsbury Park

August 2, 2017


I was disappointed to find that the previous occupant of this site had closed a couple of months ago when I  was in search of my usual post-seminar, pre-quiz meal of pizza, Nastro and rocket salad. What had put paid to the outfit I’m not sure as there always seemed to be a steady enough stream of customers. I’m hoping that Walnut, the new restaurant, endures as this was an excellent meal.

It being early evening it was pretty quiet. The room hasn’t been altered much except the seating is now a mixture of café style and more formal dining (though not overly so). We warmed up with a round of cocktails (£5 in happy hour, worth doing as a post-work wind down on their own) while we had a look at the menu.

The selection on offer is big enough without making your brain ache. I went for the starter special of razor clam (one of my favourite things) in a salad with bacon. The clams weren’t drowned out by the salty bacon and the whole thing was despatched very quickly. The main of hake was perfectly cooked with plenty of crispy green beans propping it up. We shared some noticeably good chips (truffle and parmesan gave them a bit of oomph) and I wished I’d had a bowl to myself.

Alongside this a bottle of Pinot Gris was delicious and reasonably priced for the quality. Did we have room for dessert? Probably but we also had an eye on meeting friends down the road so we got the bill. Service was friendly without being too chummy and we left happy. Recommended.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


Resto 36 Hanna Maria, Finsbury Park

July 25, 2017

We were looking for pre-quiz eats but it being a Monday most of Finsbury Park’s more refined venues were closed. So we turned to Hanna Maria, which has been around for a long time but which I’ve never visited before. My only previous acquaintance with it was Luca the Pizzaiolo from our football team. He had a dynamite right foot but was a determinedly erratic attender of football matches.

Thus service at Hanna Maria would make Luca proud. On arrival the man making the pizzas, having no English, gave us the Italian equivalent of a Gallic shrug before we sat ourselves in the back room. The room is a bosky bricolage delight. Past old album covers suspended from the ceiling one steps into a log-pannelled den facing a surprisingly well-appointed bar. I liked it.


Eventually someone appeared to give us menus and after some confusion we ordered. Pizza is king at Hanna Maria and they have plenty of toppings listed. We took half a metre to share and though we picked two different toppings I couldn’t discern where one started and the other finished. It didn’t really matter, the whole thing tasted really good. Crispy charred dough around the edges and plenty of good stuff on top.

The side salad was bigger than expected and though it contained raw red onion (I spurned it) this was mitigated by some excellent olives. The Pinot Grigio was drinkable but nothing more. Several people popped in to ask us if our food was okay, which it was, but when it came to getting the bill we had to go up to the desk. For twenty quid a head it was good enough value for a filling dinner with booze on top.

So I’d recommend HM but with the proviso that you’re not in a hurry. The pizza is excellent but Luca’s spirit lives on in the randomness of its delivery.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Review #99 Pasta Remoli, Finsbury Park

November 27, 2016

On a Friday night we were looking for quick, simple food and Pasta Remoli pretty much fitted the bill. Their angle is handmade fresh pasta and good Italian ingredients. Celebrating one of the spawn’s achievements we kicked off with a good bottle of Prosecco while munching on a range of antipasti. Tasty dainty arancini and a range of cold bits were all very good.

We each went for a different pasta for main and I have to say that I drew the short straw. A circle of dry ravioli around a sticky dark, sweet sauce with gorgonzola and walnuts was not really to my taste. The other plates looked better and made me wish I’d stuck to something familiar. The house red was better than expected for the price which is always a good thing.

The room was nice and busy with a good atmosphere of theatre-goers and hungry locals. Helped along by excellent service Pasta Remoli seems to be a good value option if you can’t be arsed to walk the extra mile to the Stroud Green Italian Quarter.


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

The Roundabout

September 11, 2016

It was not entirely by accident that I got to learn of the Park Theatre’s excellent production of The Roundabout but it might have been. It was reviewed in The Spectator on Thursday morning (a very favourable review) and fortunately we had a Friday evening to spare so I bought the tickets immediately. It might be that it had been publicised elsewhere but in my fairly broad cultural reading (broadsheet paper, the usual BBC output, billboards/flyers, Twitter) I hadn’t heard about it even though the theatre’s on my doorstep. So first of all I’m grateful to Lloyd Evans for giving it a publicity push.

In my case he was pushing at an open door. Previous to a couple of years ago I kind of vaguely knew who JB Priestley was without having ever read or seen anything he’d written. Not even An Inspector Calls! (Which I still haven’t seen.) Having a friend who writes on the 1930s and then having to teach on the home front in the Second World War soon put paid to that.

From my teaching on the War I came to realise that Priestley was just as important a political writer in his own way as was George Orwell. And I suspect a lot more widely read by the public. But this post isn’t to talk about the relative impact of Priestley and Orwell on public opinion home and abroad during the Blitz. Rather it’s to talk (briefly) about Priestley’s novels and to ask someone to do something.

My friend John recommended that if I wanted to read anything by Priestley I should start with The Good Companions. The GC is a road novel about a working man from Bruddersford (a lightly fictionalised Bradford) and his adventures on the road with a band of artistes putting on a travelling cabaret in depression-era England. It’s a baggy old beast packed full with sentimentality, harder than you expect reportage, rounded characters, good humour and unlikely meetings. Think if Evelyn Waugh had the itinerary of Orwell and the good nature of Eric Morecombe. Or something like that. It’s a middle-brow classic. That isn’t a put down.

This was followed up by Angel Pavement, which should have been more up my street since it’s set in London. I liked it but not as much as the Companions. While the latter has benevolence in every page even when at its most bleak Pavement, for all its wonderful description of London in the 30s, feels a far more angry book. It feels that Priestley the northerner has come to despise somewhat what he sees as the harder attitudes of the south, a view that I don’t entirely share with him. And the pay off is far too easy to see from early on in the narrative. But I’d still recommend it for a description of a City of London – one of hard-pushed clerks, travelling furniture salesmen and a working port all mingled together – that hasn’t existed for many a year.

Talking over the Good Companions with a playwright friend after watching The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny I mentioned that I thought it would make a far more effective piece of musical theatre than Brecht and Weill’s overwrought sledgehammer of an allegory. ‘But it’s been done!’ he replied. And at the time I thought, ‘Well that’s interesting I must look it up.’ The major problem it seemed to me would be to write music as good in reality as it is portrayed to be in the book, especially Inigo Jollifant’s smash hit Slippin’ Round the Corner. But then I left it to one side after a search on YouTube and Spotify didn’t turn up any version of a production or the numbers within it.

The Roundabout reminded me of that conversation and I looked up the musical version of The Good Companions. With lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by André Previn it does seem to have some pedigree but I don’t remember it ever being on in London. So my hope is that if the Park’s run of Priestley is successful it might encourage someone, the Park themselves perhaps, to put on the musical. Or it’s a chunky enough number for the National I would think; and with its narrative of north and south, rich and poor, individuals and teams in an era of austerity it would surely have some resonance today.

Just as The Roundabout does. So in anticipation of a Priestley musical do go to the Park to see The Roundabout, it’s worth the trip wherever you are in London.


Review #49 Osteria Tufo, Fonthill Road

May 29, 2016

Friday by Friday I’m munching my way through all the Italians around Stroud Green and yet after half a dozen I’m still not done! As the proprietor of the WB Yeats noted, there are more pizzerias in N4 per square inch than there are in Naples! But Osteria Tufo is no pizzeria (they don’t serve it), in fact its offering is a cut above your standard pizza/pasta place and is well worth the detour round the back of Finsbury Park tube.

I did well to pop in in person earlier in the evening to reserve as the booking for 7 o’clock was only confirmed after the waitress consulted with her manager and phoned me back. Fonthill Road is not the most picturesque in north London but OT does its best to prettify it with a profusion of foliage out front on the terrace. The room itself is small but open and light. It feels a comfortable place.

We weren’t sure of how much starter to get – I guess we could have asked how substantial they were – and decided to split a salad and some baby octopus between the four of us. The salad of mixed grilled vegetables was tasty but not enough for our purposes. The octopus on the other hand was a generous helping of very tasty babies that I would have consumed as Saturn would devour his own childers if they’d all been left to me.

The mains were a mixture of Italian classics and some more left-field options. Everyone was jealous of the squid ink pasta with seafood. I had a hefty chunk of cod cooked in a delicious soy and sesame sauce. The house white worked very well with all this and we had more wine on top of more wine. Everyone very convivial, including the staff, and thus was I tempted to take on dessert.

My espresso chocolate cup was thick and sticky but not half as enjoyable as the very high quality grappa that came alongside it. I approached it through sniffing. I’ve been hoodwinked by grappa before – sometimes it promises subtlety at first sniff but then just clubs you in the gob and leaves you with heartburn and a headache. Like the Margi Clarke of alcohol. This one not only had the required alcoholic ferocity but also a subtle fruity taste that for one brief moment made me feel that I could be in a Paolo Sorrentino film if only I took on a more world weary demeanour. Like La Fabrica around the corner Osteria Tufo offers West End quality at N4 prices. Recommended.


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap


Review #4 – La Fabrica, Stroud Green Road

January 10, 2016

After a slightly disappointing lunch I decided to try somewhere completely new for a family dinner in the evening. I’d heard encouraging things about La Fabrica from friends so had been keen to try it out for a while. Stroud Green Road has a lot of good restaurants and so it’s easy to just go back to somewhere reliable; say Petek, Exeter Street Bakery or Season. I think La Fabrica offers a significant step up and unlike those previously mentioned is a restaurant worth travelling to Finsbury Park for even if you don’t live in the area.

The room is larger than it looks from the outside with a smattering of tables at the front next to a bar (you can dine at the bar) with a larger section at the back. The décor is sort of stripped-back industrial, fairly low-lit (good for a date I’d say) with the music (tasteful soul) noticeable but not obtrusive.

The menu offers tapas – a wide variety of tapas with a hefty amount of daily specials. I like to test a new Spanish place by trying the cold meat and cheese offerings as an intro to see what the quality is. In this case it was peerless – a generous helping of 5 or 6 different meats, each with an individual taste and texture and four varieties of sheep cheese. With some good soft bread and a glass of fino they went down a treat.

The waiter was happy to wait for us to scoff the planchas before we ordered some tapas for the main event. For these we went for a mixture of the familiar and the moderately exotic – padrone peppers, baby squid, squid ink rice, scallops and some other stuff (yup, was definitely getting the big eyes!). There’s an extensive wine list, lots of organic, and I opted for a red from Tenerife – something you don’t often see on a London menu.

It was v good. As was the food, in fact the food was better than v good. The ingredients were typically Spanish but executed beautifully, each plate a little picture that it seemed a shame to carve up between three. But we did and polished the whole lot off to the last crumb and tentacle. I was game for dessert but wiser post-Christmas counsel prevailed and we had an espresso instead (in a deep cup that kept the coffee satisfyingly warm to the last drop).

To cap it all off the service was tip-top. The waiter had obviously tasted everything on the menu and also knew about the wine in detail – a sign of an employee committed to the project. La Fabrica will be the joker for this year. A restaurant with high-end central London standards in N4 is a keeper.

9/10 (Only because I don’t believe in perfection)

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

%d bloggers like this: