The Grafton is to The Kentishtowner what Pippa Middleton is to the Mail (a sexy young ratings-grabber, of course), so we make no excuse for running another story today. Ahem.
By now every reader must know about the reopening of this luvverly old boozer on formerly unlovely (but now very fashionable) Prince Of Wales Road. It’s the perfect reinvention, we think, in that its Victorian elegance has been restored – or rather, reimagined – whilst allowing a sense of history to pervade in its candle-lit corners. And there’s not a pretension in sight.
But what we hadn’t prepared ourselves for was how good the food is. Owners Susie and Joel remain adamant that this is not a gastropub, and rightly so: the atmosphere and crowd both day and night feels all-inclusive, reflected in lunches at a reasonable £7.
In playing down the food offering they surprised us with each dish. At the helm is James Brown (ex Punch Bowl, Knightsbridge) with co-owner Joel alongside. They get their fish from Billingsgate and source herbs and veg from both the Highgate allotment (on Swains Lane), and the Urban Growth scheme (by Camden Garden Centre). In fact, they’re even about to plant an allotment on one of the pub’s many roof terraces.
You can also try a selection of plates to share at £5 each, as we did. Mackerel came with potato and red onion salad, the crispy-skinned fishiness complemented by the sweet-sour-clean flavours of dill. Even better was Devonshire free range lemon chicken, its skin deliciously blackened, with pearl barley and chorizo (main pic).
The veggie option was, according to expert (and fallen vegetarian) co-editor Tom, a success in its marriage of portobello mushroom with red pepper compote, tomatoes and leaves from the allotment. Less successful was an oxtail stew with carrots and dumplings, but only because it lacked the freshness and surprising depth of flavour so evident in the other dishes.
To drink? There’s a short but decent wine list, with house red at around a fiver; Camden Pale Ale (whose barrels they roll down the road) and T.E.A are other favourite tipples. And there’s a range of artisan spirits too, although we have yet to explore them.
This is, inevitably, one to watch. And yes, we feel like we say that about every new opening in Kentish Town right now. Which can mean only one thing: that good stuff is happening. But nowhere is doing food at this level for these prices (feel free to correct us below). And furthermore, we love The Grafton in the peacefulness of the day, with the light pouring in through the windows.
So if you’re not so keen on Farmer Tom’s meat-heavy offering, come here: but our advice is to visit both. Lower/West Kentish Town is upping its foodie game. Big time.
Words & Photos: Stephen Emms