When we first ate at The Parakeet in April, we marvelled at how an institution such as the former Oxford pub could be rebooted so successfully.
In fact, our conclusion was that “with such ambitious cooking, and flawless atmospherics, this is a highly skilful reinvention that should make the biggest mark on Kentish Town’s dining scene since the smash-hit success of The Bull & Last a decade-and-a-half ago.”
And of course we weren’t alone, as every critic from Kentish Town’s very own Giles Coren to Jay Rayner applauded the skilled, elevated cooking. It wasn’t long before Head Chef Ben Allen (previously of BRAT) was shortlisted as One To Watch at the National Restaurant Awards 2023. The result? It’s nigh on impossible to bag a table at a weekend unless you’re accustomed to arranging your social plans well in advance.
So, a new bar menu seems like a sensible development: comprising of classic bar snacks reimagined by the chefs, with a couple of cheaper staples from the restaurant, it’s surprisingly well-priced for cooking of this calibre, with all six dishes hovering between £3.50-8.50.
In the nature of research, we swung by the other Saturday, when torrential rain darkened the natural light that normally floods in through the large Victorian windows. Taking refuge in a cosy dimly-lit booth to the right of the bar, its stained-glass windows and wood panelling evoked something of a hallowed atmosphere, as the storm raged outside.
But then the whole interior – especially the dining room – is antique, ornate and yet somehow contemporary in its various shades of parakeet-green, echoed in the outsize houseplants. The original paintings by Ghanaian artist Theophilus Tetteh provide juxtaposition.
While the main restaurant menu offers seasonal produce cooked over flames, the familiar-sounding bar menu nonetheless offers up a twist or two: the homemade trout roll (£5.50), for example, is a fishy take on its sausagey cousin (I later find out that this is supplied by floating-boat heroes London Shell Co, who’ve recently set up shop on Swain’s Lane).
Before that we knocked back plump oysters (£3.50 each) from Devon, which come with a refreshing hit of pickled elderflower, and a masterful umami-packed sesame prawn toast (£6), made in-house and suitably chewy (not to mention moreish). The fermented chilli dipping sauce added a fiery kick, too.
The two dishes from the main menu only succeeded in making us want to book another table in the dining room sooner rather than later: oozy melt-in-the-mouth spider crab croquettes (£5.50) and rich, unctuous skewers of grilled leeks, mushroom and pecorino (£6).
But arguably the best dish was the simplest: a sausage sarnie (£8.50). Made from the lightest sourdough baked in the open kitchen, and packed with the chunkiest mutton and pork sausages, crunchy pickled veg and glistening red onion, this is what to order if you’re the kind of person who fantasizes about sitting solo in the corner, a pint and a book in hand, as summer rain sweeps in overhead.
Even if you embark on an impromptu feast as we did, sharing all six bar plates between two, it will come in at about £19 a head, cheaper than the cost of a main in many far lesser North London gastropubs. As usual with The Parakeet, this menu feels like another fresh move: we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Kentishtowner ate as guests of The Parakeet.