March 21, 2010

The Public House, Islington

By In Reviews

interior of public house islingtonSo what would you think if a guy you’ve never met before serves you a glorious cocktail on a coaster bedecked with impressively endowered Greeks doing stuff? Personally if the guy happens to be rather good looking and the owner of a rather decent and quirky bar-cum-restaurant you can’t help but be envious at his cool style!

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

interior of the public house islington

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Top :: Comments

  1. TheWinesleuth March 21, 2010

    Celerity? Is that a word in the english language or did you just make that up? 😉

  2. wine_scribbler March 21, 2010

    someone posted it as a ‘word of the day’ on twitter – it means speedily or something…

  3. Jilly Goolden Fan Club March 25, 2010

    This sounds like a wonderful establishment. I really must try it sometime…
    Also, I believe that the modern parlance for ‘man boobs’ is ‘moobs’ 🙂

  4. gary April 1, 2010

    Why would you want to say the Greeks were endowered and anyway how would you know.Bit silly

  5. wine_scribbler April 1, 2010

    The Greeks as pictured on the coaster… and yes very silly

  6. The London Foodie April 13, 2010

    I had pretty much the same dishes as you, but still felt that the duck terrine and desserts were not very good. Your review made me realise I should have paid that wine list a little more attention. Great write up.

  7. Penny Newton October 15, 2010

    What a huge disappointment this venue was.
    I went for a drink on Thursday evening only to be greeted by the two barmen/owners? in a very rude manner. The barman became angry when I asked for a Vodka and tonic, informing me they don’t sell Vodka “because it doesn’t bring anything to our bar”. I’d never heard such pretentiousness in all my life. Did the Beefeater Gin or Wray and Nephew Rum bring something different I wondered?
    I’d finally had enough when the barman told my group “if you don’t like the size of your reserved area you can leave” ( we had asked for a table for 20, and we could seat only 10). I would think they would have welcomed our custom as the place was empty.
    There were more unprofessional incidents to our evening, which I won’t bore you with. But if you do want to go to the most pretentious bar in London, be spoken to rudely, and Vodka isn’t your drink then I’d suggest going!

  8. Tony October 30, 2010

    We had exactly the same experience. One of our friends likes this place for some reason so we have ended up giving it a second chance after a horrid first experience. The main barman (the one with the beard) is incompetent and rude. On our first visit he said they had a great selection of beers and I asked if he had a Weizenbier. He said Yes and gave me a Weissbier and became aggressive when i said they weren’t the same thing and I didn’t like Weissbier. He also messed up our cocktails including putting his unwashed fingers in the drinks. On the second visit this week we had the “don’t do vodka” thing and ended up with a thimble sized G&T which wasn’t measured in any way. They also don’t sell coke on principle. A heady mix of arrogance, ignorance and lack of service. Awful.

  9. wine_scribbler October 31, 2010

    Comments have been closed on this review – there is a tendancy for people to only write negative things concerning places they have been, however well meaning. As the review mentions there were a few concerns during our visit, but nothing that I am sure the staff can fix. I for one am looking forward to a return visit to see how the place has changed.


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