We seem to be chasing Neil Rankin round Islington. We just missed him at John Salt and were keen to try the meat centric menu on offer here. It's a nice laid back vibe with a good buzz. It was unsurprisingly full on a Saturday evening. We had a very good snd effiecient waitress who took time to answer all our questions. We were sat right at the pass which was bordering on the almost too warm so I wonder what they will do in the height of summer. I also wonder how this menu will translate into the summer months as the beef bourgingnon and Barnsley chop although delicious seem more suited for autumn and winter than the sweltering summers London enjoys.
The brisket roll with gouchang was excellent, the duck in spring rolls was lovely with a tasty Peking sauce that was like a more sophisticated satay. The burnt leeks were delicious and light compared to the other two.
As stated before the short rib and Barnsley chop were meet with nods of approval. The chop was served blue and John almost asked for it to be cooked a bit more but ate it anyway and declared it delicious. My mackeral was disappointing. It came head and tail on, which is not a problem but it also came with all the bones, which is, especially in a place with dim lighting. It was just too much effort in that lighting for me to eat so Liz Lemon made sure it didn't go to waste. I also have to say compared to the other dishes the way it was present wasn't the prettiest. The Asian style coleslaw that came with was very tasty as was the side of pulled pork and grilled romaine. The other disappointment was the side of green salad, which was a small bowl of shredded iceberg, no dressing no nothing. Now I know the Smokehouse is a smoker/ meatcentric place but that doesn't mean that it can't do light or vegetable dishes well. I would suggest they need to focus on this aspect of the menu particularly coming I to the summer months when interesting salads a la ottolenghi could be the perfect foil for some smoked/ grilled meats when heavy mash or cauliflower cheese would just be too much.
A surprise standout was the double d. To say it is an incarnation of a double decker is to do it an injustice. It had a great combination of textures and flavours. A really good way to end a fun meal.
We meet John for lunch taking advantage of the fact you can book at lunchtime. It was full and had a good buzz. The service was friendly and the good came out when it was ready which suited us fine as we has a lot of catching up to do.
We ordered duck hearts in Marsala. I am not fond of heart but Liz Lemon and John said they were tasty especially with the Marsala.
We had some scallops which were perfectly cooked and sweet.
Pardon peppers are always good.
I was a little disappointed the baby squid were coated but they were still moreish.
The proscutio, wet garlic and burrata was tasty although the weakest of our dishes.
The prawns were magnificent the sort you get in Spain and delicious with the pomegranate, chili and yoghurt salad.
The standout of the meal however was the treacle tart. So good that I ordered a second slice, with clotted cream. It was not too sweet and had the perfect consistency of crispy top and chewy inside. The treacle tart of my dreams.
So. Borough Market is apparently for tourists and although that is what we are, I do remember how uncomfortably busy it was and that it was not much fun, so decided we should make the most of the decent weather and head to Maltby St Market instead.
It's a 15 min walk from London Bridge and a word of advice there is not much point getting there before 9.30 am as the traders are still setting up. We were the first folk there and felt a bit of a nuisance.
The coffee from Craft is indeed very good. The reports of a slight decline in quality of the St. John doughnut I found to be true. I had a Canele from Comptoir Gourmand and although a tasty morsel I wondered if there were meant to be two textures instead of one?
The standout of the morning was the salt beef Reuben from Monty's deli. I would definitely come here again for that. The guys at Monty's were supernice. We followed this up by being the first people at little bird gin and having a 10 am Bloody Mary and Negroni. Nice. What a civilised way to start a Saturday morning!
I am sad to say that Nopi was the most disappointing meal of our trip. As you know I love Ottolenghi and make it a point to eat there every trip. I appreciate the ingredients and the effort that go into making the dishes. I felt that although some dishes were tasty enough at Nopi the sum was not greater than the parts. The portions are too small and the prices too steep. We ordered the sirloin from the mains section which at £30 is the same price bracket as a main at Tom Kitchin or Martin Wishart. It was tasty but nothing special. The mackeral came with an amazing cucumber sauce but was a tidly 4 pieces of fish enough really for a mouthful each. The venison was slightly larger and reported to be tasty. We ordered a few vegetable dishes: burrata, blood orange, coriander seeds and lavender oil was ok the highlight was the blood orange.
The cauliflower green Harissa bulgar and almonds consisted almost entirely of bulgar, I found only one piece of cauliflower in it. This was tasty if paltry.
The crushed beetroot dukkah and date molasses was almost awful. Beetroot can have an inherent sweetness to it which would necessitate cautious addition of date molasses to avoid over sweetness. This failed furthermore it was not crushed but puréed into an unappetizing purple mush.
The roasted sweet potato, burnt aubergine yoghurt, basil was ok. It's hard to go wrong with sweet potato but I have a suspicion it was butternut squash as I did find some hardened skin akin to that of butternut squash. Even that is just lazy, it doesn't take much to peel a butternut squash before you roast it.
The calcots were fair enough. I have always missed them when in a Barcelona so was keen to try them. A cross been tween spring onion and leek.
The twice cooked baby chicken was indeed minuscule and again a mouthful for each. I could have looked past the portion sizes if it had been tasty but it was overwhelmingly sweet as opposed to savoury.
The puddings were worse. The mint chocolate chip was left unfinished and that says something when ice cream goes uneaten. The trifle was described as dry.
I could have forgiven the fact we were kept waiting 30 mins for our table had the food been worth it. I don't mind paying a lot for food when it's worth it but this was not especially given most of the vegetable dishes are pre prepared aka ottolenghi and sitting out on serving platters in front of you.
In a city like London where there is do much choice and competition I was surprised and disappointed by what we had, and am sad to say I will not be back.
After arriving on the sleeper at 6.30am at Euston Station we rode a couple of stops to Liverpool St Station and walked to the Heron building where Duck & Waffle inhabits the 40th floor.
I hadn't realised it would be so busy at 7.30 in the morning, else I would have booked a table. As it was, we were able to get a table but only for an hour. Unsurprisingly all the window tables were taken but given the Saharan sand storm was covering London in a blanket of smog the view was limited, so we didn't feel we were missing out. Liz lemon was very happy with his ox cheek Benedict. I was underwhelmed by my duck egg en coccotte. Even with a side of bacon and roast tomatoes it was not as tasty as something with wild mushrooms, gruyere and truffle oil ought to be. My side if bacon was so hard I had trouble cutting it with my knife and I thought that the lack of effort that went into my tomatoes a little surprising for a London restaurant. When I do my roast tomatoes at home I sprinkle them with a little garlic, maldon, olive oil and thyme. These had nothing. A breakfast negroni helped matters somewhat but I would not go back.
The service was efficient and friendly enough but that, even with the views is not enough when there are so many other places to try.