Market

Camden isn’t exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to good restaurants. Aside from the chains, there’s Porky’s which got a decent review from Timeout but served me the worst excuse for a burger I’ve seen, there’s Made in Camden which has decent grub but feels like a school canteen and never has anybody in, and there’s Honest Burger which thankfully never fails to hit the spot. Then there’s Market which serves good British food served in a cosy little restaurant. Inside has the feel of a local restaurant, and the exposed brick walls are a world away from the trendy Soho joints. It has the feel of 10 Greek Street, and so does the menu which is made up of seasonal British ingredients simply cooked. To start I had cured mackerel with dill, Crème fraîche, capers and soured onions (£7). If you have watched Valentine Warner Eats Scandinavia then you’d know that this is right up his street. It was such a delicately balanced dish, and everything worked so well to give a fresh and extremely clean taste on the palate. It really needed the Crème fraîche because without it the vinegar from the curing would have overpowered it.

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My partner had the pig’s cheeks, black pudding and peas (£8). It came in a small iron pot and was a generous starter portion. It was hard not to like this dish with these flavour combinations. There maybe could have been more flavour coming from the pig, but with good sourdough bread to dab it all up nobody was complaining.

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So starters had gone well, and we were saying how lucky we were to have this place on our doorstep (which by London standards is still a bloody twenty minute walk). And then came the mains. How could beef onglet, fries and aioli (£15.50) go wrong? Somehow they managed it. This is one of the lesser used cuts of meat, but when cooked well it can also is can be one of the tastiest. Sadly though this was tough and lacked any real flavour. The presentation didn’t help things either, and it looked like the scraps from somebody elses plate had been piled onto mine.

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My partner had the guinea fowl, leek and bacon pie with cabbage (£15.50). This was a real shocker. The crust was golden which seemed to promise good things. But as soon as you cut into it, the disappointment began. It was basically a soup with a crust on top. Although that’s being too generous. It was so thin that there was no way you could eat this without a spoon. A pie’s filling should ooze out, not be a thin liquid. To top things off it was both under-seasoned and also didn’t have  much of the guinea fowl.

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We passed on dessert, and with two sides- sprouting broccoli and fries (£3.50 each), both nothing to write home about- and a bottle of decent Malbec (£22.50) the bill came to £88 which was on the expensive side. I feel (and hope) we caught the kitchen on a bad night because the last two times I’ve been the food has been spot on and it always felt like I was getting a great deal. But tonight was really hit and miss, and for food that is this simply cooked, everything should be perfect. The service was fine, although we did have to ask for pretty much everything. I want to say I’d go back, but then again I’d much rather go to 10 Greek Street, which all in all takes about the same length of time to get to, is a bit cheaper and serves much better food.

Food: 5/10 (Starters 8/10, Mains 3/10)

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 6/10 43

Parkway, NW1 7PN, Camden, London

Market on Urbanspoon

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Hawksmoor Air Street

Hawksmoor Air Street is the fourth in the group of excellent British steak restaurants that us Londoners are lucky enough to have. Unlike Gaucho, which tends to be filled with posers who look like they’ve never eaten a steak, at Hawksmoor there is no messing around. You’re there for the quality of the meat, and the no-nonsense bare-brick walls, low lighting and chunky furnishings reflect what is soon sitting on your plate in front of you.

So when I heard that the Air Street venture was also specialising in fish I was shocked. At Hawksmoor? Really? It’s like when McDonald’s put salads and deli sandwiches on their menu. It just broke tradition and didn’t fit. It’s a STEAK restaurant, that’s where you forged your name, I don’t want to turn up and hear what the catch of the day is.

Just off Regent Street, this Hawksmoor spans across a huge corridor-like space. It’s less dungeon-like than the others are, and a lot more Mayfair. Art deco takes precedence here with racing green leather booths, dark wood tables and mirror panelling. But thankfully it remains very firmly masculine, and looking at the crowd it was mostly groups of after-work men sloshing back red  wine and wolfing huge portions of meat.

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Settled into a booth we started on the cocktails. After questioning the inclusion of fish on the menu, I had to begin to question myself when I ordered an Aperol Spritz. I deserved a slap, and thankfully when it arrived and was far too bitter, it served as a reminder that I wasn’t a lady sitting in a summer garden, but was a bloke ready to tuck into a bloody meal. After regaining my composure I quickly made up for it with two bottles of strong Kernel IPA (£5).

The last time I went to Hawksmoor I filled myself on half a lobster to start and ended up leaving some of my 400g ribeye, so I was tempted to pass on the starters in exchange for a bigger cut. Maybe smoked salmon or crab on toast would be a lighter option. The waiter would have none of it. Not in Hawksmoor. It didn’t take much to sway us.

The Tamworth belly ribs (£10) are possibly the best ribs I’ve had. So refreshingly masculine. They are slow cooked so that the juicy meat is flaking off the bone and served with a good slab of red cabbage. They’d be perfect as a meal on their own.

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Just as good was the potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires and onion gravy (£8). It was the best parts of a Sunday lunch brought together into one dish, and we all enjoyed stuffing the two huge perfectly crispy Yorkshires with the meaty caramel  goo and stuffing it in our mouths.

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Still good but some way off the other two was the potted smoked mackerel with toast and cucumbers (£7.50). It wasn’t smokey enough for my liking, and there was hardly enough toast to scoop it all up- not to worry though, the Yorkshires came to the rescue.

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For main I shared a 900g T-bone (£8 per 100g). It came in an iron dish, already sliced up for us. I’m not a fan of this, even though most restaurants do it when you’re sharing a steak. It takes away the joy of being presented with a huge slab of meat and having to do the work yourself. Although £72 (between two) without any sides is a hefty price tag, this is really as good as a steak gets.

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The same can’t be said of the Hawksmoor cut of turbot (£13 per 100g). The 250g (as recommended by the waiter) was tiny when it came, almost like it was just the spine of the fish and the rest of the meat had been left behind. There’s no denying that it tasted good, but there wasn’t much too it other than the quality of the ingredient.

Now the sides. We chose the beef dripping chips (£4.50) over the triple cooked. Who really cares how many times their chips are cooked? I’m sick of seeing that on the menu. What does it even mean? Just make sure they taste good. These chips were excellent- crispy and full of fatty flavour. The other sides were spinach, lemon and garlic (£5) which was fine and Doddington Caesar Salad (£4) that was great because of the way the parmesan had been so finely grated so that it clung to the dressing.

Then came the main event- Anchovy Hollandaise (£3). Who would have thought a condiment could steal the show? But oh this one did. Never has there been anything better. Thick and velvety; the perfect accompaniment first for the fish and steak, then the chips, and finally our fingers. It’s the only time I have ever seriously considered ordering seconds of what isn’t even a dish in it’s own right. That alone would have left me a happy punter.

So after a huge meal, two bottles of excellent Potugese, Quinta de la Rosa (£42.50), we definitely didn’t have room for a pudding each and so decided to share one- the sticky toffee pudding (£7). It was never going to be a light panna cotta to end a meal like this, and so when the toffee pudding came in a sundae cup with thick caramel sauce dripping over huge nuggets of caramel and nuts, it was a fittingly over-indulgent way to end the meal.

The food was excellent, but I have two complaints which annoyed me a great deal. The first was when the waiter came and took the dish with the yet-to-be-cleaned T-bone still in there. I was close to tears. If I’d been a real man I’d have fought him for that bone. Not only do I hate it when a waiter takes a plate away when you are clearly still eating (an obvious nudge that they want you to stick to that 2 hour turnover time) but taking a bone away from any man is cruel to say the least. Big chunks of flesh and fat were clinging to that bone. Thankfully he didn’t take away the anchovy hollandaise, allowing me to mop it up until the pot was glistening clean.

The other thing that really annoys me is this whole 2 hour turnover that they made a point of telling me over the phone. What the hell is it about? What are they going to do, throw me out before I’ve paid the bill. I’m paying close to £100 a head for this meal, if it takes me longer than 2 hours to eat, then tough luck. I hate it when they are trying to keep you on that tight conveyor belt.

I feel that this Hawksmoor has crossed the boundary and become a little too big and formal. I want to lean back and let the red wine and bloody meat slosh around in my gut. I don’t want to hear comments on the splendour of the art deco setting, or be told told that I have to be out the door before that sticky toffee sundae settles.

Overall it was a great meal, and apart from these two complaints I loved every part of it. Apart from the fish which I didn’t bother to glance at (although I’ll admit was still very tasty) every dish was as good as it can get. At close to £100 a head it is expensive for what is essentially grilled meat, but you’ll struggle to find a better steak anywhere in London.

Food: 9/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 7.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

5a Air Street, London, W1J 0AD

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