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Tuesday 26 November 2013

There's No Smokehouse Without Fire...

Last year us Mice were left raving to anyone and everyone about the amazing Neil Rankin delights we had sampled at the then newly opened John Salt restaurant in Islington. After a gushing blog post had been published, we immediately got on the phone to get another reservation to introduce HK Mouse to our new favourite chef on her Christmas trip home. Much to our disappointment, we received a call the night before informing us that Mr Rankin had resigned and they were forced to close the kitchen whilst they devised their new menu. Rumour had it that he was being asked to create more mainstream dishes, like burgers, which just aren't his style, so the brains behind the menu walked! 

As compensation for our cancelled booking, we were invited back when the kitchen had reopened for a discounted meal, we of course took them up on the offer eager to sample the replacement offering. Sadly we were really disappointed and left not even half as wowed with the bogstandard dishes filling the menu showing a distinct lack of imagination. Not a chicken skin sandwich or BBQ truffle baguette in sight I'm afraid.

Now the scene has been set, you can imagine our excitement to hear that star of the John Salt show, Neil, was setting up shop all on his lonesome and just a stone's throw from his previous stomping group!

The Smokehouse is a gastropub set in Canonbury, the Highbury end of Upper Street. It's just a 5 minute walk from Highbury and Islington tube station, however when we visited, as it was such a beautiful morning, we decided to walk from London Towers along Regents Canal all wrapped up in scarfs and cashmere! Ninety minutes later we had arrived, starving hungry for what we hoped was to be a jolly good feast!

From the outside and even as you walk in, it appears to be a normal local pub - a smart one but nothing too scary as the name Smokehouse may suggest! The interior is spot on and beautifully done - lots of natural light streaming in, crisp white walls adorned with antlers and blackboards, chunky wooden tables and mismatched chairs - a great mix of chic, comfy and open. It welcomes everyone and by the looks of it they all know it...surrounding us we had a big family lunching, young couples with their babies, a group of boys meeting for some pub grub and the download of the night before, a couple on a date and then us three mice huddled in the corner!

On our visit the service was laid back, if I was to be critical I can imagine some may find it slightly slow, however for a chilled Sunday afternoon, we felt relaxed and as if the experience was completely at our pace. The staff were lovely, very friendly and happy to help when asked but not overbearing or pushy.

If I had learnt anything from our John Salt tasting menu, it was that no dish should be missed so we decided to pick four different starters and all share so we could get a taste of everything we fancied!

We opted for...

Foie gras, apple pie & duck egg - safely the star of the show - the flavours were incredible! Definitely one we all wished we didn't have to share!

Burnt leeks with duck egg, girolles & parmesan... 

Lobster Frittata…

Pig's cheek, pecorino & pear

Each dish left us scraping the plate to get every last morsel - there was no polite 'oh you finish it' or 'you've left a bit' - we were in to win anything we could get…there were definite moments of food war! After polishing off and thoroughly enjoying every last morsel and sipping our way through a carafe of delicious red, we all felt suitably refuelled for more Mice adventures!

Husbands and boyfriends will love this place, they not only serve up a mean plate of meat but they also boast thirty different craft beers on tap and many more by the bottle. Whilst you gossip away and get high from the dessert menu, they can work their way through the LONG beer menu...

At around £6 to £12 a starter and £12 to £25 for mains, you really can't go wrong. I have to add that as we walked out, the family next to us had the most scrumptious looking roast dinner, definitely on my list of Sunday Must Dos'! Having said that the main courses all sounded like a party on a plate, as did the desserts…I sense several wine soaked evenings at the Smokehouse are about to make their way into my diary pretty sharpish and I CAN'T wait!

The Smokehouse
63-69 Canonbury Road,
N1 2DG
+44(0) 207 354 1144

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