1. Bull & Last
2. Made In Camden
3. Queen Of Sheba
And now for that most enjoyable part of the day: dinner. Votes here naturally stretched further afield, with love shown for modern British bistro Market on Parkway, Kentish Canteen, the Horseshoe (the people behind Camden Town Brewery no less) and the reinvented (and excellent) Old White Bear, both in Hampstead. Even Gilgamesh netted a rogue vote (thanks Sarah Harding! We jest.)
We hoped hoary old Sicilian joint Pane Vino might have stood a chance but, alas, it only got one vote, for its ‘pricey but perfect pumpkin purée.’ Perhaps it’s time to re-think the interior & ambience (dim lighting always work for us), as the food is delicious and still much-raved about in foodie circles.
Elsewhere, there was support for Tufnell Park’s del Parc (still on our hitlist – anyone want to review it in the comments below?), as well as creaking old Bintang (best for veggie offerings), Guanabana, and of course, reliable gastropubs The Oxford and Junction. The Lion & Unicorn should really have done better, but it too got just one vote. We wonder why? (We admit we still haven’t eaten there either so feel free to enlighten us.)
We were, however, delighted that Ethiopian mainstay Queen of Sheba took 3rd place. It typifies Kentish Town’s hidden international culinary gems and is on a row of under-rated intimate restaurants (including Japanese diner Satuma, and Delicious, for ‘top pizza and good old-fashioned Italian bonkersness’, says @JB-1).
Like those, QoS is authentically good, with charming service and dishes whose flavours linger: try the Doro & Gomen (chicken, spinach, garlic, jalapeno) or the Yebeg Alich a We’t (lamb in butter, onion and turmeric, both around £10), all served on injera, the staple sponge-like bread.
But we are supremely lucky to have two of the capital’s finest restaurants on our doorstep. Made in Camden has really found its feet in the last 12 months and is now a delight – worth crossing London for, so if you’re local there’s no excuse.
Sensational sharing plates inspired by Barrafina and other Soho greats are executed with flair: ‘sticky’ pork belly with papaya, mango and cashew nut; seabass, dripping in sambuca butter, a mouthwatering version of chicken Romesco (with black vinegar and a carrot and miso puree), and ox cheek with white polenta, apple and sour cherry (all around £7-9). Throw in a casual dining atmosphere and stylish, dark-lit interior and it’s a must-visit.
The Bull & Last is similar in its experimental approach to cooking, although with more emphasis on nose-to-tail cuts. The formula is deceptively simple, its short menu and rowdy pub atmosphere the backdrop to sensational cooking. The most melt-in-the-mouth rare steak we’ve tasted all year was enjoyed here (from Dedham Vale, around £23), and on a recent visit Mrs Kentishtowner simply raved about a sublime main of braised pig cheeks with boudin noir, choucroute and cider prunes (around £18). Yet pretentious it ain’t. A deserved winner.
And so ends our 9 day countdown, and in fact that’s it from us for 2011. We’ll be back in Jan with some exciting news about our very first print edition.
Happy Christmas Kentishtowners. And don’t forget to add your thoughts as usual below.
Words & Pictures: Stephen Emms