Not smokin’ at Smokehouse.
I had heard lots of great things about this, before I actually found out where it was. And when I did, I was a little surprised. I had imagined that it was going to be in the more gritty, happening part of Islington.
I used to know its predecessor very well. It was at the end of a road I used to live on. But I didn’t go there very often, because it was noisy and it didn’t really seem to be aimed at people of my age. That hasn’t changed. But that’s fine. I will endure generational dislocation for food.
A frisson of irritation on being called to confirm the booking and told that we could only have the table for a limited period. They hadn’t mentioned that previously.
I hate that. And not just that, but if you’re going to shove me out in two hours, then you have to serve me within a reasonable time. If you do not, I will get stressed and start looking at my watch.
And I will be even more irritated, nay, bemused if, by the time the bill actually arrives, (of which more later) two and a half hours have passed, and the restaurant is still only half full.
And my first impression is that this has not changed at all from its previous incarnation in terms of the décor. The place is dark, gastropub-y and very noisy. We were placed on a small table, near the kitchen. It was hot. Too hot. We had to resort to opening the door.
I ordered the brisket roll with gochujang mayonnaise. It reminded me of smoked paprika. The roll was a deep-fried, large croquette, filled with smoked brisket shreds, mixed with chilli, perhaps. The filling was tasty and I enjoyed it. I didn’t particularly like the deep-fried casing, which I thought was too thick – I thought this would have worked much better with a softer, more delicate casing pastry. The smoked mayonnaise was delicious.
Even though Smokehouse suggests meat, I had eaten so much in the last week that I felt like I was turning into a cow. Some might say I already have. And there were a couple of fish dishes, but I fancied something light.
And I do love corn on the cob despite the teeth thing. Served with smoked béarnaise and cauliflower and confit onions it sounded good. The corn was undercooked and it was slathered in the sauce. The béarnaise didn’t work with the corn, entirely overpowering its flavour; there was nothing to eat it with, and one small corn on the cob is not sufficient for a main course. Or at least it isn’t sufficient for me. The cauliflower was dry and limp. The best thing about this dish was the onions.
And yes, I did mention it.
Personally, if it were down to me and going with the smoked theme, I would have had smoked butter on the corn and I would have grilled it so that it was really blackened on the outside and chewy, not the insipid colour on offer here. I would have given you at least two corn cobs and I would also have given you something to actually eat the corn with. Béarnaise fingers? Not my fantasy.
Very glad that, then, that I had the back-up side order of pulled pork. It came with chopped spring onions and was delicious. It would have been good to have known that it was actually extremely spicy. So spicy that my companion found it somewhat unpleasant to eat. I quite liked the heat, but I think we should have been told. Not everyone likes that chilli kick.
A had been far more mainstream with her lobster frittata and her mutton chops. She was not particularly bowled over by the frittata, but the mutton was well received, special praise being reserved for the parsley/anchovy sauce. .
We also had (because we both really needed) a side order of roast potatoes, which was a decent portion and went some way to making up for the corn disappointment.
And by this time, my friend wanted another drink. Her empty wine glass had simply been whooshed away by a passing waiter, without any comment, never mind asking her whether she wanted a refill. Which she really did.
Following this, what was described as Friday Pie. A chocolate ganache, on top of caramel, on top of a ginger-nut biscuit base. It was too cold, and it tasted like it had been in the fridge with something else. There was an odd flavour to it. It was certainly not the thing of deliciousness that we were promised when ordering. And the ice cream had big ice crystals in it. Like when it has melted and been refrozen.
And then, the ordeal of trying to get the bill. Having to request it from two separate people and waiting forty-five minutes to receive it. And they weren’t that busy. I’m not sure why we paid for service, friendly though it was , because we didn’t really get it.
I was not overwhelmed by this restaurant. And don’t tell me I should have had more meat. I had two dishes with meat involvement. But the veggie offering was really poor and it could have been so much better.
Maybe I went on a bad night. Maybe I ordered the wrong food. Maybe this isn’t my sort of restaurant. But maybe, just maybe, this isn’t quite as good as it could be.