It really is tiny, the ‘pop-up’ wood cabin tucked away in the corner of the York & Albany’s already petite outside space. Yet despite the pouring rain and howling winds putting a temporary stop to the desired wintry alfresco look of candlelight and roaring woodburner, it’s charming. Tartan throws, wobbly lights, taxidermy, a small counter: that’s about it. Advertised as accommodating eight (fifteen including outside space), it’s more of a snug for two or four. And all the better for it.
The drinks list comprises just five cocktails; the food, good value at around £3-4 a go, posh bar snacks. With just two of us, and no other customers to be seen, we had the sole attention of charming Kaitlin, recently arrived from Queensland: in between preparing us some intriguing libations, she divulged tales of her fledgling NW1 existence.
We started with The Hunter, a concoction of Bombay Sapphire, apricot brandy, lemon juice and champagne: pleasant, not too sweet, but – as so often with cocktails – no vast improvement on either a straight glass of champagne, or good old-fashioned gin itself.
But our next choice, The Hound, was a real discovery. Kaitlin explained the complicated method in its creation: butter is heated until just before it splits, then mixed in rum and left for days, before the golden nectar is muddled with fresh blueberries, spicy syrup and poured over ice. It’s served in a copper tin cup with a sprig of lavender (which makes its own assault on the senses as you quaff), a memorable sensory experience.
The other cocktails didn’t quite hit such a height, but a Spiced Mead matched not-too-sweet apple juice with pale ale and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey; and a Julep came served with pungent overtones of mint, and chestnuts in a sugar coating.
To accompany the sipping, we nibbled on the various snacks created by head chef Kim Woodward: a creamy duck rillette buoyed by spring onion; venison sausages sharpened with a significantly tart relish; a deeply meaty game sausage roll, and best of all, black pudding scotch egg, more boudin noir than pud.
The cabin is well worth a visit if you’re in Camden, an appealing contrast to the more earthy delights found on Parkway’s lower slopes. And it’s easy to forget how pleasant the York & Albany is generally, for a smarter NW1 night out.
Words: Stephen Emms