Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Longroom

It may sound like I have done little but blow the trumpet for EC1 of late, and thinking about it, there is actually a lot of good food to be eaten around the Old St/Clerkenwell/Farringdon area, despite my initial trepidation when accepting a job there.  One of the newer openings, is The Longroom.

It is indeed a rather long room with a central open kitchen where the limited menu is prepared and served.  Their schtick is quality meat and beer, as it's still early days they are rarely full yet and the room feels a tad vacuous.  There's been minimal buzz surrounding the place on twitter and I'm yet to read a review.  I was keen to try before I leave the area and head back to Soho for work.

The short and sweet menu reads well.  Home cured salt beef is the star, in sandwich or sharing board form, the menu bolstered by some home made soups and cheese toasties.  As long as the beef is good, what's not to like?

And I did like the beef.  It bared the requisite characteristics, in that it's suitably salty, stringy and tender.  It's Keevil and Keevil brisket, sourced from around the corner at Smithfield market.  It was the accompaniments I was not 100% sold on.  The bread, sourdough from Gail's Bakery, is very good bread, but I wasn't sure of it's place in this context.  I'm not certain why they've veered from the traditional and shied away from rye.  It is nice bread though. 

The house pickles were very generous, onions and gherkins and other crunchy vinegary specimens, vying for your attention and rendering the beef all but tasteless in the sandwich.  I had the Reuben with swiss cheese, thousand island dressing, english mustard and sauerkraut also thrown into the mix. Ideal to soak up the many beers on offer.  I felt there was something missing but can't be sure what, or perhaps it's that the sandwich isn't perfectly in harmony with a bit too much going on.  It's not quite up there with the Mishkin's Reuben for me, but they are completely different beasts.

That said, I'll be heading back later this week for my leaving lunch, and I'll be trying a cheese toastie next time.  I love the idea of the place, perhaps it's early days and things will develop with time, what they are doing right, is the drinks.  I had a pint of the London Fields Hackney Hopster pale ale.  All citrusy and light, I forget that I'm not keen on beer when I drink this!  As well as the multiple draught options, there are plenty of imported bottled beers on the drinks menu.  Of particular interest, the Little Creatures pale ale all the way from Oz.  (Imported by Aspalls, but still craft, right?! Hmm.)

Prices are reasonable, £5-9 for the sandwiches, with a lunch special available of half a serving of soup with half of any sandwich for £7.50.  The beers are available in quarter, half and pint measures, which is handy for me as I'm in lightweight form at the moment since my pathetic attempt at #dryjan.

The Longroom
18-20 St John Street

The Longroom Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Pig & Butcher

I'd all but given up trying to find a decent Sunday roast in a London pub.  After multiple disappointments, and a phase of not really feeling the humble roast dinner, it seemed like a thing of my past.

Living in Islington is great.  There are almost too many cosy local pubs offering increasingly impressive selections of craft beers and ales, though most lack an equally remarkable menu to entice those more interested in the food than booze.  I harbour a healthy (ahem) interest in both and am happy to report my latest find, an establishment which invests equal thought and time in both the beverages and the eats on offer.

I reside a mere 5 minute walk from The Pig and Butcher and they will no doubt be seeing a lot more of me.  The decor is rustic and charming, miles better than the dingy old interior of The Islington Tap, think sticky floors and drafty corners.

My friends and I arrived for 12, and they were full by 12:30.  It's certainly popular with locals, staff are friendly and service is deft.  It's advisable to book in advance though early birds will snag a bar table.  We each went for a different roast, all come with seasonal veggies, creamed leeks, a yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes.

Roast leg of Kentish lamb.  Loved everything about it, except the tats, 
which were disappointingly anemic.

Slow roasted, pulled Old Spot pork shoulder & apple sauce was a hit.  
Creamed leeks in the foreground, were an excellent accompaniment.

35 day-aged roasted Hereford beef sirloin was also well received, 
all needed more gravy, an extra jug was served when we asked.

Roasts are £15.95 so they're not cheap.  Only grumbles were the potatoes, and the lack of gravy, otherwise excellent and the quality of the meat really shines through.  As an ex waitress I rather like the idea that they spoon out your chosen sauce for you, rather than delivering multiple sauces per table, smart of them.  Reduces unnecessary waste and mess.

There are a couple of non roast options and some really interesting sounding starters and desserts.  I'm keen to sample the weekday dinner menu but was not up to anything more than 1 course on this visit.  Sue and John tried some of the many beers, there's also a weekly special, this week's was an offering from Hawaii with pineapple.

The whole thing was reminiscent of The Bull and Last, my favourite gastropub in London.  Leaning towards the carnivorous, there's a butchery room on site and daily deliveries of meat and fish result in an oft changing menu.  I love the vibe and am happy to have found the place.

The Pig & Butcher
80 Liverpool Road
Islington, N1

Pig and Butcher on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 January 2013

EC1 Cafe Lunches

So far, January has been a pretty dull month, I tried to forgo any alcohol and only managed 12 days so for the first half of the month, I tried to liven things up come lunchtime.  It hasn't really worked, save for the odd trip to Burger & Lobster but I've realized I've not written about a couple of EC1 cafes I have frequented fairly often since starting at my current place of work in July (I'm back to Soho in Feb).

J & A Cafe
This place is a hidden gem, off of Clerkenwell Road down a small alleyway but always busy and serving a solid menu of homemade goodies to eat in or takeaway.  I usually have the soup of the day, 2 or 3 varieties are chalked on the board, the soda bread served with it is brilliant, the best I've had.

Chicken and bacon chowder with soda bread (£6.50)

The blackboards advertise the daily menu, selections of salads, pies, tarts, stews and sandwiches.  Another favourite is the savoury tart, more of a quiche really served alongside a choice of salad.  There's such a variety available each day, a potato, rice, pearl barley and a leafy option always with interesting sounding ingredients.  I've never had a duff order here.  Wholeheartedly recommend it, if you're in the area and I'll miss it when I'm not.

Pie of the day (£10.50) served hot with a choice of potato, salad or champ.

Tart of the day (pea and feta pictured, £9.50) served with leaves and a salad of choice

Service is efficient, the food served very quickly and I'm usually in an out within half an hour.  There's a bar in the evenings and weekend brunch looks appealing.  I'll definitely be back to check that out.

Workshop Coffee
Formerly St Ali, of Melbourne fame, I'd been meaning to visit Workshop cafe for some time.  After an acrimonious split, they re-branded as Workshop and seem to be flourishing.  There's a second branch in Marylebone but I've only eaten at the original and biggest Clerkenwell Road venue.  There's a focus on coffee and brunch, in true Antipodean style but they take the rest seriously too, a recent pop up collaboration with The Hart and Fuggle looked very interesting.

Tarragon chicken caesar salad (£11.50)

Hamburger, comtĂ©, chipotle mayo, ratte potatoes (£13.50)

Sweetcorn fritters, halloumi, spinach, poached eggs and kasundi (£11.50)

The kasundi in the photo above is a mustard relish.  I wasn't too keen on it actually, it had a rather acrid aniseed flavour.  This is a bit pricy for an everyday lunch, but nice once in a while.  I find the service can be a bit slack, they are always very busy though, so they're doing something right. Best for breakfast or weekend brunch.  They used to offer a selection of sandwiches on the coffee counter, which were always good and better value, but these were gone when I visited last week.

Salvation Jane
I don't have a bad word to say about the food at Lantana, so was keen to try sister restaurant Salvation Jane when I heard Shelagh was expanding.  I've been for weekend brunch and weekday lunch, and much preferred the former. 

Corn fritters (£10.50) were under seasoned and thai fish cakes with noodle salad (£9.50) were uninspiring.  Much better was the grilled halloumi with toasted turkish bread, hummus and dukkah topped with poached eggs (£9).  That's a dish I'd definitely return for.

As at Lantana, the coffee on offer is lovely as are the selection of sweet dishes on the counter.  It's a much larger venue than the original site so easier to nab a table, no sign of a queue on either of my visits.  I do so love Lantana though, the first of it's kind in London, and still one of my top choices for brunch.  The menus seem to be remarkably similar if true to what's advertised on the website.  

Service is friendly and the place has a charming relaxed vibe.  It's good value too and being only a few steps away from the Old St roundabout, it's a shining beacon in a grimy little strip on City Road.  Shame on anyone walking by and going to the Pret next door.

J & A Cafe
1-4 Sutton Lane

J + A Cafe on Urbanspoon

Workshop Cafe
27 Clerkenwell Road

Workshop Coffee - Clerkenwell on Urbanspoon

Salvation Jane
55 City Road
Old Street

Salvation Jane on Urbanspoon