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Tuesday 30 August 2016

Salut! - At Last a Decent Restaurant in Islington

Name: Salut!

Where: 412 Essex Road, London, N1 3PJ, http://salut-london.co.uk/

Cost: Average food spend per person is around £30 not including drinks. Starters cost from £7.90 to £11.40, mains from £14.30 to £19.80 and desserts from £7.90 to £11.20. The entry level red and white wines are from La Mancha in Spain, both priced at £20.   

About: This restaurant is sympathetically converted from the former King George pub on Islington's Essex Road. Opened in December 2015, the restaurant has eight wood-topped tables, gorgeous copper lights, and an open-plan kitchen. With huge glass windows all around it, there is plenty of natural light, making it a bright and welcoming spot.

The menu is concise, well-thought out and changes regularly with a choice of 5 starters, 5 mains and 3 desserts. Run by ex-Noma chef Martin Lange and his brother Christoph Lange, they were very much in evidence throughout our dinner.

I loved the unusual crockery - it turns out that it is made by fellow Japanese-Brazilians, and imported from hometown São Paulo. The restaurant serves modern European dishes with Nordic, French and German influences. On the Sunday evening we attended, the place was packed.

What We Ate: We opted for the Tartar 3 Ways (£11.40), featuring 3 quenelles of 45-day dry-aged short horn rump steak, beetroot and smoked pigeon breast. Regular readers will be aware of my devotion to steak tartare, and Salut's version did not disappoint served with a scattering of glossy balsamic glaze, a Parmesan tuile and quail egg. I loved this dish as a whole but in particular the raw smoked pigeon, a revelation!

The seared scallops (£10.90) came with pan-fried squid, over squid ink veloute, micro coriander and red amaranth leaves, broad beans and radish. The scallops were superb, and the finely scored fried squid perfectly tender - a simple dish, gorgeously presented but concealing a great deal of culinary skill.

The shorthorn sirloin (£19.80), the shorthorn is a breed of cattle from the North East of England, was served with wilted kale, a griddled king oyster mushroom and the creamiest truffled potato puree – another great dish, it was served with mini turned potatoes and a rich, glossy reduction.

The salt marsh lamb (£19.60) included best end and breast, and came with pomme dauphinoise, Savoy cabbage, baby carrots and garden beans. With top quality, super tender lamb, this was our favourite dish of the evening.

For dessert, we opted to enjoy the remainder of our red wine with a cheese platter (£11.20), served with gooseberry puree and hazelnut crisp bread. The cheeses were eclectic and well chosen to include cow, goat and sheep, blue and hard varieties. They were a Rouelle from Tarn in the Pyrenees, a Sharpham unpasteurised goat Brie from Totnes in Devon, a Napoleon Vieux ewe's milk cheese from Montrejeau, France, a Crozier Blue made from County Tipperary, and a Fleur de Maquis unpasteurised ewe's milk cheese from Corsica. For such an interesting cheese platter served in peak condition, the price was very reasonable.

The poached pear with marinated berries, white chocolate espuma and hazelnut (£7.90) came with a scattering of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and physalis, and made an excellent end to the meal.

What We Drank: The wine list is unusual, mainly chosen from artisan producers, making wines with wild yeasts and often made organically or bio dynamically. There is also a small selection of craft beers.

We opted for a bottle of Alvero Castro Outeiro Tinto (£29) from Dão in Portugal. Made from a blend of Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz grapes, this was a light, fruit driven wine gentle on the tannins, which went well with the beef and lamb.

Likes: There wasn't a disappointing dish on the menu, but I particularly enjoyed the tartar 3 ways, the salt marsh lamb, and the excellent cheese platter is not to be missed.  

Dislikes: None

Verdict: Salut! is a much welcome addition to the food scene in Islington, a neighbourhood dominated as it is by uninspiring chain restaurants. This independent, stand-alone venue is a joy to visit, with great attention to detail in everything served to eat and drink, friendly informative service, and great value for money. I cannot wait to return. Very highly recommended.

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