Six of the best: May 2014

Our monthly guide to half a dozen cafes, pubs and restaurants north of the river, including a Kentish Town classic and Primrose Hill newcomer

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Hake with poppy seed crust, pak choi, chilli and sweet potato. Photo: The Vine
Hake with poppy seed crust, pak choi, chilli and sweet potato. Photo: The Vine

The Vine

New management is giving this long-established K-Town favourite a real boost. From the reinvigorated menu we’ve eaten there several times recently, and enjoyed Cornish mackerel with spiced puy lentils, and chargrilled squid with cumin and garlic. But on a recent blissfully hot Sunday lunchtime (when the mood was almost Ibizan on the revamped dining terrace), we raved about a stunning starter of kohlrabi, chilli, coriander and sesame, a deeply meaty corned beef hash and poached egg, hake (pictured above) – and best of all, whole sole with cockles and garlic dumplings. 86 Highgate Road NW5


Stylish: interior, Blanchette
Chic: interior, Blanchette
Right opposite one of our favourite tapas bars, Copita, head to this new French bistro in Soho for sharing plates – steamed mussels, braised lamb shoulder with anchovy, onglet with snails en persillade. Interior is classy: candelabra, tiling and brick, plus stylish counter that overlooks the action. Nice charcuterie, homemade terrines, and oysters too – and, of course, French wines. 9 D’Arblay St W1

Le Coq

Chicken Shop for grown-ups? Perhaps. It’s £17 for two courses, and the food is pretty good. We ate calcots with Chinese seaweed to start, followed by Rotisserie Sutton Hoo Chicken with winter coleslaw and rice. The poultry comes from Kennel Farm in Sutton Hoo, where there are just 213 chickens per hectare. Only a couple of choices to start and for dessert, and no choice on the main, but it changes weekly. St Paul’s Road N5

Ripe Kitchen

Destination tea: White jasmine neroli. Pic: Sarah Fox
Destination tea: White jasmine neroli. Pic: Sarah Fox
This new Regent’s Park Road caff makes a useful pitstop en route to Primrose Hill. The brainchild of self-confessed health food nut couple, Tom Burdon and Yulia Davidenko, everything is made in house, bar the bread, delivered daily by Seven Seeded bakery. Interesting flavours of tea (such as white jasmine neroli), and coffee is made with reliably smooth Square Mile beans: Tom nabbed baristas from Soho’s Flat White to ensure each cup us perfectly ‘rosetted’. As well as summery salads and chunky sourdough sarnies, treats include threaded banana cake, gluten-free moist brownies and chia seed soaked in almond milk with berries. 136 Regent’s Park Road NW1



Le Coq
Rotisserie Sutton Hoo Chicken: Le Coq
We’re big fans of Russell Norman, so much so that we even followed in his footsteps to Venice to check out some of the bacari that inspired Polpo. Polpetto was its tiny offshoot above the French House, now relaunched on Berwick Street right bang in the middle of the market. The food offering is divine: game faggots, cavolo nero with anchovy, fabulous beetroot and gorgonzola (each dish about £8). And Norman himself was busy serving the room, despite his new-found stardom on BBC2. 11 Berwick Street W1


Did you know Camden Town Brewery owner Jasper has a flagship food pub in Hampstead? In fact, it’s the only place we ever eat at when we’re up there. And even better is his £8 weekday lunch, which combines a hearty main – in our case, a fillet of fish in chewy ciabatta with moreish chips – and a glass of wine or beer. Yes, for just £8. Excellent value. 28 Heath Street NW3

Ripe Kitchen review and image by Sarah Fox

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