Salsify, The Dartmouth ArmsThe York Rise watering hole – closed for 18 months – reopened in April with an entirely remodelled interior, which took a while to get used to, although we love it now. And the kitchen, fronted by experienced chef Adam Hardiman, is off to an assured start: just beating the last Kentishtowner’s cover star (that highly photogenic wild boar pie) is this pared-back starter: elegant fingers of salsify – like skinny, saline parsnips – are braised and layered over bitter, white-veined raw radicchio. Grated pecorino and toasted hazelnuts add umami notes and earthy crunch respectively. In short? Wintry salad perfection. £7. 35 York Rise NW5. Read the full review here.
Crispy duck egg, CeremonyFortess Road’s big autumnal arrival didn’t disappoint – and more importantly, underlines where upscale meat-free cooking is right now. Big tastes, decadent ingredients and boozy cocktails: first and foremost this is a fun – not a prim – place. And much dazzles: a plate of grilled rainbow carrots with puy lentils is way more inviting than that sounds, as is silken pappardelle with creamy pea and celeriac. But in pole position? A starter of crispy duck egg atop truffle-heavy polenta, with its theatrical exploding yolk and winning combination of textures. £14. 131 Fortess Road NW5. Read the full review here.
Lamb chops, Chai ThaliA cavernous new Indian restaurant opened on Mandela Street at the start of the year. Where, you say? Just off Camden Street, a cobbled mews-style thoroughfare down near Mornington Crescent, with converted factories and warehouses lining one side, shiny office space on the other. Of the many dishes (and we’ve worked our way through a decent amount) most memorable are lamb chops marinated overnight in spices, cooked in a tandoor and served with kachumber (the salad made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, chilli and cumin): the chargrilled crust and burnt fat yield almighty waves of flavour. £9. Centro 3, 19 Mandela Street NW1. Read the full review here.
Vegan burger, Fields BeneathThe madly popular Kentish Town West café went vegan this year, to a mostly rapturous response. It’s busier than ever now, with most lunch items selling out before 1pm (we should know, our office is just round the corner). While we were hooked on the very un-boring salads over the summer, and then the beetroot-packed chunky wraps in the autumn, our current obsession is the superb Mekong Mouthful burger. Why? Its sweet potato patty is slathered in spicy peanut sauce, the sturdy sesame bun smeared on both sides with coriander mayo, while pickled ginger and red chilli add texture and heat. A true vegan classic – and a snip at just £6. 52a Prince Of Wales Road NW5. More on Fields Beneath here.
Pitta wrap, Magic FalafelThe truth is that this unassuming Camden Market streetfood outlet serves the best falafel in London. If you don’t believe us, check out their unbridled social media love. Order it in fresh toasted brown pitta: you’ll get four or five freshly cooked and moist balls, but it’s the jumble of accompaniments and salads that spike it with such flavour, from the glistening sauces (rich green coriander, red chilli and mildly floral saffron) to the chopped red cabbage, red onion, tomatoes, tahini and cucumber. £5.50. North Yard, Stables Market NW1. More on Magic Falafel here.
Sunday roast, Beef & BrewKentish Town’s well-priced steakhouse is no secret, but this year their new Sunday offering has added a whole new reason to swing by. Crimson slices of Yorkshire rump are pillowy soft and medium-rare, while props should go to the crisp roast potatoes, joyously fluffy inside, and the huge boat-like Yorkshire pudding, so inflated it dangles off the side of the plate. Not to be outdone are the griddled quarters of hispi cabbage, carrots with horseradish and parsnips edged with parmesan. Take a walk on the Heath first: this is a filling plate. £18. 323 Kentish Town Road NW5. Read the full review here.
Mackerel, Odette’sIt had been several years since our last visit to Primrose Hill’s hoary (but recently refreshed) dining institution. Yet a spontaneous £17 two-course set lunch on a sunny June Saturday was a delight. A main of mackerel riffed on the savoury ‘fifth taste’, its flesh meaty, skin slick as a rasher of bacon, the pool of miso-like spring broth sweetened by big fat peas and lovely green broad beans. A slim rectangle of potato even chucked in a few carbs, too. 130 Regent’s Park Road NW1. Read full review here.
Tuna tartare, Anima e CuoreWhat else is there to say about the tiny restaurant run by Calabrian-born owner Mustapha Mouflih and a team with backgrounds cooking at Le Gavroche and Cecconi? It’s become a K-Town institution in the three years since it opened – and still as damn tricky as ever to get a table. So practised is the cooking that from the daily chalked-up blackboard passed around on any given service, simply blind-pick anything. Don’t know where to start? Try the signature tuna tartare, avocado cream and cucumber sorbet, as beautiful to look at as its spicy, fishy and chilled notes are balanced. £Prices vary. 129 Kentish Town Road NW1. Read full review here.
Baron Bigod, Cheese BarIt was easy to be sceptical of the social media hysteria surrounding Matthew Carver’s one-trick British cheese-only restaurant sensation. Yet the overriding factor is its seriousness and a resolute un-cheesiness, right down to an interior as chic as Soho stalwart Barrafina. Many dishes impress, like the Marmite Malakoff, a golden brown breadcrumbed ball of bubbling cheese on a swirl of nutty red pepper romesco sauce. But our first choice is a chunk of musky truffled Baron Bigod from Suffolk, served with pickled walnut and crackers with a real crunch. Worth crossing the capital for. £7. 93 North Yard Camden Market NW1. Read full review here.
Cured beef tartare, NeighbourWe were pleased to see such a high quality replacement for Joe’s Southern Kitchen, with its crepuscular cocktail den, and laidback ground-floor dining room. Of several strong plates (including mains of Iberican pork and sea trout), this stands out: beef thigh, cured for 30 days, melts slowly over the tongue, aided by the salty hit of capers, tang of pickled cucumber and punchy dabs of anchovy sauce. Cubes of crouton provide bite: it’s a deconstructed beef tartare with bells on, all no-messing texture and taste. £9.50. 300 Kentish Town Road NW5. Read full review here.
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