Oldroyd does unforgettable new food in spectacular, understated style…

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To find yourself the filling in a kebab house-nail salon sandwich might not naturally sound like the sort of place you’d fight your way through a crowd to find yourself but like the obligatory rose between two thorns, something beautiful has bloomed in Angel.

Oldroyd has not yet been open a full week and it is not yet a full day since I ate there. However, some things can become very obvious very quickly dear reader, so when I tell you that a) this is a place destined to become infuriatingly, tantalisingly hard to get into and b) I’m already planning a return visit, you can trust me on both counts.

Truth be told, I’m a little loath to tell you how utterly delightful this place is because I’m afraid busloads of hungry hordes may then keep me from the little table by the front door at which J and I sat and made Meg-Ryan-in-that-film noises at last night…

…but I want it to stay and I want it to be successful so I’ll share it but heaven help you if I find you’ve taken the last portion of that chocolate mousse…

Oldroyd is the offspring of Polpo’s former chef director, Tom Oldroyd, who’s stepped out on his own here to create a small but perfectly formed addition to the culinary scene in Islington, a place already offering dining choices from every corner of the culinary globe.

The addition of ‘Ed’s Diner’ recently saddened my inner food snob somewhat – I love a fat, drippy burger as much as the next gal but with Byron, Honest Burger, Five Guys and The Diner all within a french fry’s distance did we really need another milkshake toting-chilli dog waving chain? – but the warmth of the staff, the selection on the menu & the quality of the food at this most recent opening have all cheered me up immensely.

With a 20 cover dining room upstairs and a ground floor space for walk-ins only, 7.30pm on its first Saturday night was going to be pushing it to get into but we were seated instantly and luckily as it turned out because it became busy from moments after we arrived until the time we left. General Manager Kieran was genuine & friendly and had the air about him of someone who really actually quite loves their job – when someone is excited to have you in their restaurant, it bodes well for what you’re about to fork & spoon into your mouth.

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A dish of Cornish Seaweed & Cider Salami with tiny baby gherkins & the sweetest-in-size-but-gloriously-sharpest-in-flavour silverskin onions started us off – the salami was meaty and delicious with a full, warm flavour. A lesser woman would have cocktail stick dueled her dining companion into submission over every fat slice; I am that woman but was ladylike enough to share…

…this time.

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There are things in J’s life that he truly loves – ‘Back to the Future’, me and meatballs are three of those things though I’m wise enough to know that this may not be the order they are always ranked in. If I’d had to pick one dish from the menu for him therefore, the Lamb & Almond Meatballs would have been it.

Served with a generous spoonfuls of salsa romesco and enough slivers of delicious pickled garlic to make us glad it was only each other we’d be kissing the next day, these bad boys were completely gorgeous. Light, succulent meat and nutty, ripe romesco was a perfect pairing and that sauce? Oh I could have happily & nonchalantly licked every last smear off the plate. Yup, you heard me. Licked it off and not even cared.

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Squid, Confit Rabbit & Broad Bean Paella with Aioli arrived next. I’m a gluttonous fan of anything confit and anything as comforting & sink-into-it-relaxing as paella so the combination here of juicy rabbit and perfectly cooked squid dotting squidgy, oozy rice was as satisfying as anything I’ve eaten in a long time. Sweatpants at the seaside on a plate. Comforting. Refreshing. Splendid.

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Coming along next to sit beside the soothing dishes we’d already enjoyed, strolled a plate that if it had been draped in bunting & sandcastles  and accompanied by the musical stylings of Mr. Whippy, could not have been a better representation of summer.

Trickling-down-your-chin ripe segments of velvet peach were tossed with nuggets of creamy, salty cheese curd and stocky, golden croutons and it was a flawless example of how food doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be unpronounceable or extravagant or intimidating. If the quality is the finest it can be and if it’s served simply with a love of the ingredient and a desire to make people happy, then yeah, you’re good to go.

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The last savoury platter to arrive was Grilled Pork Ribeye with Chard, Borlotti Beans & a Hazelnut Pistou. So I know for J, the star of this dish was the meat and yes, it was delicious. Charred yet soft, it was full of the flavour I struggle sometimes to find in pork but for me, the hazelnut pistou was honestly something I could dollop on every dish of my dining life going forward. The whole plate was, by turn, crunchy and meaty and fresh and gentle and warming and salty and earthy and I loved it.

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Sashaying in to finish the meal was, well, if this voluptuous mound of chocolate mousse could speak then oh, it would coo, it would wiggle & it would give you the kind of wink to make you blush. The Jessica Rabbit of desserts, it was light, rich, creamy, flecked with sea salt & pistachio and draped elegantly over raspberries whose job of cutting through the cocoa goodness with a fruity zing was handled with aplomb. Shards of salted pistachio praline were crunchy & chewy and the whole dish was, quite frankly, the sort of thing you’d like to take home, close the curtains and get to know.

Promising to change seasonally & committing to using fresh British produce where possible, the menu we devoured on this occasion is likely to look different on our next visit which makes choosing from it both interesting if you see something you’ve never had before – hello pork ribeye – and potentially heartbreaking if you fall in love with something that is only available for a month or two each year. My conscience loves seasonality but as the heart wants what the heart wants, so my tummy now just wants to gorge on broad beans and peaches, two of the loveliest ingredients showcased on this visit.

Here’s what I like – food that surprises me, that introduce me to new things, that put modern spins on classic dishes delivered with class & passion. I’d like to humbly confess that my last dining experience at Polpo left me unfulfilled and hungry. I’d like to proudly boast that Oldroyd will leave you anything but and blissfully, it’s on my doorstep so come. Come and be fulfilled and fed…

…just remember what I said about that chocolate mousse.

 

Falling hard for the flavour of brave, beautiful, Korean dining…

Jin Juu may translate to ‘pearl’ but make no mistake – this place is an absolute diamond of a restaurant and the fact that I keep thinking about it and having stomach-growlingly real flashbacks days after my visit shows what a memorable eating experience you’ll have there.

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Barely a week into 2015, The Londonist published an article entitled ‘8 Restaurants That Will Be A Big Deal in 2015’ and top of that list was Jin Juu, stirring immediate excitement in my brain, heart & stomach for a few reasons; firstly, my infamous love of all things edible means that I’m instantly curious about anywhere that’s promoted as note-worthy; secondly, when I fell deliciously face first into a Korean BBQ burrito last year, it triggered the start of a mild-verging-on-obsessive quest for good Korean food in London; and thirdly, it looked like it might just achieve that culinary holy grail of being exciting, delicious and affordable.

The last point is important to me because much to my regret, I don’t have a bottomless fund with which to bankroll my food obsession and there are so many places in London that look wonderful but are simply priced out of the majority of people’s pockets.

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Make no mistake, Jin Juu is stylish – from the Korean & British graffiti dragons adorning the walls to the frosted bottles lined up behind the bar like happy little soldiers ready to soothe away the day to the Steve Jobs quote hanging in the busy but ordered open plan kitchen, the vibe brought back so many memories from stateside travels…part NYC hip touched with just a hint of elite Seattle and finished with a nod to its too-cool-to-care London locale, it wasn’t weird enough to be found in Portland & not pretentious enough to sit downtown in my beloved LA. It was just very very cool in style but very very warm in its service. Read More

Taqueria, Westbourne Grove…

In my thirty something years, the best soft tacos I have ever had have come from a tiny little taqueria in Los Angeles. It’s probably one of many, hole-in-the-wall shopfronts that you wouldn’t even give a second glance to unless someone gave you the heads up. Luckily someone did that for me and now, 5000 miles away, I’m passing the taco buck as best as I can…

Trendy, upscale, Westbourne Grove based restaurant Taqueria is as far as you can get from a low key, LA taco outlet but as far as I’m concerned, it makes the best soft shell tacos I’ve had outside the city of angels and that’s about as high a piece of praise I can give.

There’s something pleasingly primitive about eating with your hands and when what you’re eating is soft and steamed, warm and loaded with fall-apart-at-the-touch meat, avocado, tomato, onion, coriander among other things, it’s just outstanding. My advised course of action here is simply pick several dishes and share…by ‘share’ I mean, everyone has a bit of everything sure, but by all means dig in and make sure you get your fill. No standing on ceremony here, it’s every taco lover for herself…

I can wholeheartedly recommend trying Carne Asada, Carnitas and Choriqueso with a side of sliced fried plantains that are so good you’ll want to order them again and again and again…I could eat multiple portions of them on their own as my breakfast, lunch and dinner. What you’ll get with these tacos is charcoal grilled steak with marinated cheese and salsa roja; my absolute favourite of shredded, slow cooked and superbly seasoned pork with green salsa, pickled jalapeño and crackling crumbs and home made Mexican chorizo encased in browned cheese.

Each taco comes with a sprinkling of onion and coriander and frankly, each taco could be quadrupled in size and I’d still want more. I tell myself that the small size is part of their charm and that I shouldn’t want them to be any bigger but who am I kidding?  I don’t even believe myself when I say that…