Age: About six weeks.
Where exactly is it? On the site of the old Crouch End cafe Here – nope, us neither – but apparently it was a decent sort of place. We reckon this is better.
OK. So what goes on there? Well, for starters this is no mere neighbourhood newcomer: affable owner Anthony Lyon has done time at West End behemoths like Hix and The Wolseley, while Head Chef Talia Prince is ex-Fat Duck and Le Gavroche. Exactly. The USP maybe be simply oysters and seafood from the British Isles, with a focus on ‘fin to tail’ sustainability, but there’s some real inventiveness to the cooking, aided by a robata grill for maximum flavourbomb factor.
The interior: discuss. Extremely bright during our drizzly daytime visit and effortlessly stylish in a bare-brick, tiled-marble-bar kinda way. Think blond wood, green leather banquettes and an open kitchen towards the rear. There are 46 covers, as well as 16 bar and window seats, which they save for walk-ins.
What should I eat? We swerved the tempting oysters and shellfish platters for the more experimental small plates. Most straightforward was a pairing of cured salmon with a nest of fennel, blobs of wasabi, and zingy cubes of grapefruit; but from thereon the dishes truly dazzled. A circular mound of stone bass tartare matched the tartness of yuzu with the umami hit of tobiko (flying fish) roe. Equally appealing were small slices of skin-on mackerel pickled in juniper and layered with lardo to create a meltingly soft mouthful, a scoop of grassy green sauce on hand to cut through the oily fish. A fun respite from such seriousness were tender golden goujons of buttermilk cod cheeks with a sun-yellow saffron rouille. Better than Barrafina? Definitely its equal.
Anything non-fishy? There are naturally several vegan small plates, such as pumpkin satay, and the vegetable sides are almost meals in themselves: rectangular blocks of textured crispy potato with a pot of dark chip shop curry sauce are #Instagold, if that’s your thing.
I’m more of a meat person. Then you’ll devour the deeply savoury braised beef cheek with a swirl of parmesan polenta, which balanced creaminess with the exact amount of aromatic rosemary. A joyous delight, in fact, with the extremities of weather playing out beyond the windows.
Dessert? It’s rude not to when the cooking is at this level: a thyme ice cream sandwich with clementine charred on the robata just had the edge over a chocolate miso marquise with sour cream.
And what do I drink? From the aperitifs, a negroni was unusually served martini-style, without ice, although a traditional tumbler version clinking with cubes was instantly provided when we asked. We also drank a versatile Basque white, Hondarrabi Zuri, and a splash of decent house red with the meat.
What’s the service like? Friendly: after all, this is a sizeable neighbourhood place with a helluva lot of Crouch End competition (for more tips on where to eat and drink in the area read our short guide earlier this year).
Do say: ‘It’s only two stops on the Overground from Gospel Oak.’
Don’t say: ‘But then you have to walk all the way uphill to get there.’
Main image: PR