Regular readers will know that tucked-away Camden pub the Colonel Fawcett is one of our preferred locals. And the good news is that its owners have just taken on Irish boozer the Sir Colin Campbell on Kilburn High Road.
It’s well worth the short hop on the overground (tip: alight at Brondesbury, just a couple of minutes’ stroll up the road). While the downstairs has had a light nip and tuck – all stripped boards and mood lighting – the main difference is that the upstairs, once the previous landlady’s carpet-clad living quarters, has been restored as a diminutive and atmospheric dining room.
Operating with a separate name, Summers, it’s the eponymous project from ex-St John chef Ruaridh Summers, offering a seasonal take on Irish fare. The idea is to elevate humble ingredients through what he calls “considered cookery”.As the rain pours down, we sit by the big Georgian windows and order about half the menu, which lists ten or so sharing plates. Affable front of house Greg Tuvey – the bloke behind recent Kentish Town pop-ups like Smoking Buns at the Rose and Crown – reels off anecdotes about the local Irish community’s appetite for crubeens: so insatiable was it historically that one Kilburn butcher used to open up after the pubs shut to feed the merry drinkers.
Crubeens, you say? Why, they’re the snack made from boiled pigs’ trotters, here refined and breadcrumbed, then served with a whorl of creamy mustard. Tasty amuse bouche though they are, things really get going with whipped cod’s roe on toast, which oozes umami, and a superlative tumble of smoked haddock with young peas, its sauce so garlicky it seeps into every pore.
The meal takes a slightly surreal turn with the presentation of a whole baby quail on moreish sourdough sauce while, happily, the two highlights come last: a pair of rosy skin-on pigeon breasts laced over a distinctly sagey pearl barley risotto; and a modest plate of leeks, braised in cider, with toasted Irish soda bread croutons, dill and creamy yogurt, its seeming lightness giving way to depth and complexity.Oh, and there’s top cheese too: you can’t leave without trying the gubbeen from West Cork, rich and yielding a satisfying nuttiness. Better still is that these plates average at about £7-8 each (although the pigeon, a larger dish, is £17).
There’s also a regular Saturday special of Irish stew to accompany the live Irish folk music the pub is rightly renowned for.
Sir Colin Campbell (open daily) and Summers (Wed-Sun), 264-266 Kilburn High Rd NW6. More info here.