Eight or nine years ago, Mrs Kentishtowner nearly bought a flat on Huddleston Road. One of those gothicky numbers up the slope, with pretty French doors onto a terrace overlooking the street. Just as she was about to exchange she was cruelly gazumped so, leafy Tufnell Park dream over, the poor woman fled to the more urban surrounds of Kentish Town – and, of course, has never looked back.
But she always retained a soft spot for The Junction (lurking smack bang on the Tufnell/Kentish border). Even now, marooned in the wilds of Queens Crescent, the fifteen minute walk is approximately ten too many. And you lot blatantly agree. It had tons of votes in our Best of 2011 although it just missed out on a gong to heavyweights like the Bull & Last and Made in Camden.
But with so many local eating options these days we simply don’t get anywhere enough. Realizing it had been nearly a year since an impromptu summer lunch, and hearing that our first despatch of limited edition Kentishtowner postcards had all been snapped up within seconds, it was high time for a revisit to its elegant dining room.
‘You look like you’re doubles people,’ said manager Jonny, with a wicked grin, as we agreed that a large Bloody Mary would be rather appropriate for our earlyish arrival (just after midday, no less). ‘It’s made with horseradish grown in Kentish Town,’ he added. ‘So it’s sometimes fiery, and sometimes it blows your head off.’ Deliciously spicy, said our watering eyes.
We were surprised to learn that the Junction’s obsession with real ales predates the nearby Southampton – but apparently it does, and to prove it we tasted two: the quaffable Spring (from Twickenham), and the TEA, a more malty affair that had Mrs KT grimacing and reaching for the iced water.
Smoked fish: the perfect start to a sunday lunch? We devoured a colourful plate (main pic) of trout, mackerel, salmon with sweet peppers, earthy chard and more of that wasabi-like horseradish. Meanwhile, ham hock with cauliflower piccalilli was room temperature-perfect and packed with flavour.
Of the mains, Roast beef combined crunchy bitter cabbage and tender meat with an unctious gravy (made, said Jonny, from slow cooking veal bones on a Monday. ‘Customers plead for more of the stuff.’). It was delicious, but perhaps needed a big green side: kale? Buttery green beans? Both?
Seabass, bacon, cabbage, mustard and salsify was salty, creamy fishy heaven. ‘If there’s a choice between a roast and a non-roast,’ confided Mrs Kentishtowner, ‘I know what I’ll plump for anyday.’
Throughout Jonny generously wheeled out the wines to try: a Chenin War Horse (South Africa), Pergolino, Trebbiano, and a Samos Vin Doux to accompany desserts of sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and a lighter, tangy lemon posset with grapefruit jelly.
And so we rolled out at two thirty, the sun breaking through the clouds, fat as pigs. We’re happy to report The Junctin more than deserves its status as elder statesman of the NW5 gastropubs. Oink.
A slap-up 3 course sunday lunch with wine and service for two people is around £70. Mains are £12-£15. Kentishtowner Rating: 8/10
The Junction, 101 Fortess Road, NW5
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms