And this style – sorta cool-gay with a dash of irreverence and humour pervades the whole of The Public House. It’s up in Islington, not as out-of-town as I assumed, but not a part of London I’ve ever stumbled though just a minute from Highbury &
Islington tube. Its not an overly styled ‘too-cool-for-school’ place. Not imposing. Not uncomfortable. The drinks menu ends with a list of the furniture and other fixtures and fittings: £1,500 for a couple of marble columns with candles? £650 for a deco stove? £450 for a free standing lamp? £800 for a 1950’s French Butterfly Chandelier? You can buy them all. A quirky element that adds to the fun. I don’t suppose they sell much, most was a bit too camp and boudoir for my taste (although I was rather taken with a couple of the chairs… and one of the other, more moveable, elements).
I rather wish we had arrived earlier to fully explore the drinks list for this too exhibits some of this quirkiness. They list a Bulgarian Muscat Ottonel by the glass (£4.50), a Patrucius Dry Furmint from Hungary (£30 a bottle) and a Viognier made by Zaca Mesa from the States (£36) for example. On the red side there is an Oregon Pinot Noir, Four Graces, (£45), great to see a Portuguese red Frontaria from the Douro (£19.50) and a Bogle Petite Syrah from California (£7.50 glass, £30 bottle). I would like to have indulged in a glass of the Chateau Du Donjons from the Minerviois (£4.50/£16.60) or maybe one of the four sparkling wines available by the glass (sadly no producers detailed but there is a Prosecco £6/£32 and a Saumur Brut Rosé £6/£32 for example or if you can only suffer champagne a Joseph Perrier at £7.50/£42)
A short list – but grief, I hate having a wine list so long it makes selecting a bottle a horrific chore.
My companion, the affable Mr Blyde, selected a Bouza Albarino from Uruguay (£27). I ask you, can you get more obscure and quirky?! It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice but I did rather enjoyed it; a decent weight, a broad palate and a fine food matching style. It work rather well. Honeyed pears mixed with grapefruit; fresh, crisp acidity.
Our discussion of the food was rather intense, critical and ‘dissectional’. Starters of Duck Terrine, Roasted Beetroot and Beetroot Leaf Pesto (£7.50) for me was generously sized and neigh-on perfect but the Scallops with Haggis and Champagne Rhubarb (£8.50) offered a little too much in the way of flavours. Beautifully presented and delicious scallops indeed, but either the haggis or the rhubarb have to go…
Mains. I can’t think of a more perfectly cooked Pork Tenderloin that I’ve eaten. Absolutely perfect. Generous in size (although the ‘wrapped in pancetta’ bit seemed absent) served with a roast apple and a cauliflower puree. The puree was little more than a smear, the apples stuffing, liver I believe, was little more than a teaspoons-full in size. So I could have done without the cauliflower and wished for more of the liver stuffing. Greed perhaps, more than a critique. Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Pancetta, stuffed roast apple and cauliflower puree is on the menu at £12.95.
The mix of flavours in the Halibut with Venison Stew and Wild Mushrooms (£17.95) was as unbalanced as the haggis and rhubarb. An expensive and generous portion of superbly cooked fish, the venison dividing the attention. Unlike some of the odder pieces of furniture they didn’t quite gel together to make an over-arching statement.
Dessert I couldn’t fault. The Apple and Berry Pie (£5) was consumed with remarkable celerity. Not due to any problem but rather my need to make a ‘last of the evening bus-train connection’. Amazing how the passage of time alters – a little wine, damn decent food, an interesting location and a lively catch-up with an old friend and before you know it the chat turns to train times.
The conversation pre-dinner, was dominated by that coaster – was the middle figure actually a guy? Impressively muscled or wearing man-boobs? The coasters weren’t for sale.
The Public House
54 Islington Park Street
London N1 1PX