Any restaurant within walking distance from my couch already has a leg up on the competition. Couch to restaurant journey is about 20 minutes at a glacial pace and wearing the stiff, patent Doc Martens I just bought to relive my youth. So I was already predisposed to look favourably upon Pho House. Recently opened right next to Highbury & Islington station, helpfully adjacent to the soul-destroying light of a Tesco sign and conveniently located next to a bank machine, the only way this restaurant could be more convenient for me is if there was some kind of shuttle bus that stopped outside my door. Damn I’m lazy. So we popped in one night with high hopes. Could this restaurant save me some overground journeys to my Dalston Kingsland fave Tay Do?
I am pleased to report that yes, even though there are some definite weaknesses that could easily be improved on, this place has a lot going for it. The bowl of pho had a really nice, well-balanced broth that wasn’t too salty or bland. The beef was slightly overdone but it didn’t detract from the comforting warmth of the dish. Pho always reminds me of home and is my ultimate comfort food. The serving wasn’t as big as I’m used to but it was substantial enough for a normal person who doesn’t treat every meal like it’s a feeding frenzy.
The fried salt and pepper squid was decent – this seems like such an easy dish but I’m surprised that a lot of places can’t get this right. Squid is actually a difficult thing to cook, it’s not easy to strike that balance between soft and chewy. I felt like this needed more salt and pepper. And maybe a few more pieces of squid?
Again the prawn summer rolls were decent but needed more flavoursome herbs – and I like it when they serve it with hoisin peanut sauce, not just with some fish sauce like they did here.
This was weirdly called Tom Yum Chicken Soup. Very strange sour broth that did not taste anything like Tom Yum. The broth was too clear to have all that stuff floating in it. Also don’t get why a random Thai dish is on the menu – you don’t need to appeal to the whole damn posse – just chill and do your own thing. Be Vietnamese!
Mmm I need more Vietnamese iced coffee in my life. I need more condensed milk in my life. Some of my fondest childhood memories include secretly cracking open cans of condensed milk and just spooning it into my mouth. Heavenly. Pho House is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood – we are really lacking Vietnamese restaurants in Islington. The staff are lovely and attentive (and actually Vietnamese!) and I hope they do really well. I walked by a week later and it was packed full of people. They DO need to sort out their fried squid and serving sizes but all in good time.
39 Holloway Road
London N7 8JP
When I noticed the sign in the window last summer proclaiming that a gluten-free bakery shall rise on Upper Street, I let myself get a little bit excited. It seemed like MONTHS before there were any signs of life at Romeo’s Gluten-Free Bakery. And rise from the ashes it did. But it was worth the wait for gluten-free bread that actually tastes good! I’m truly amazed. The texture of gluten-free bread is usually rock hard or overly chewy, never an in-between. And never that lovely springy spongy soft breaded goodness that makes you want to use the loaf as an edible pillow. Went for a quick lunch on a rainy Saturday and had the avocado sandwich with an almond milk latte. Almond milk! I am no fan of regular milk and tolerate soy but I’ve found it almost impossible to find any decent coffee places in the area that offer almond milk as an alternative.
The service was a tad slow so they brought over a complimentary gluten-free brownie that we obviously devoured. I love when people make little gestures like that – it shows they actually care about their customers. They sell fresh loaves everyday but I imagine they go quickly. I’ve had the carrot cake here as well and it tastes like proper cake. I mean, can you get more ‘Islington’ than a gluten-free bakery? Am patiently waiting for the dog bakery to open. Not because I have a dog but because I look forward to the day when I can walk by and scream “HAH!”.
Romeo's Gluten-Free Bakery
167 Upper Street
London N1 1US
When it’s half raining, half snowing you don’t want to go to far from home. Which is why I ended up meeting some friends for dinner at Autograf. A well reviewed Polish restaurant very close to the Turnpike Lane tube station. It’s very cosy inside and has a diner feel. With booths, neon sign outside, twin televisions playing non stop 80s music videos. In total there are only be about 20 seats. It doesn’t feel like some marketing idea of a Polish restaurant. But it does have a definite Eastern European vibe.
The food is great. If you are looking for traditionally prepared Polish staples. This is the place. The portions are absolutely huge though. Not one out of four of us could finish an appetiser and even half of our main. So order carefully, or don’t. And just take home enough for lunch the next day. Which is what I did with my crumbed cutlet.
Pierogi with meat.
Pierogi with potato, cottage cheese, and onion. I think next time I go I’m just going to eat these buttery pierogi and drink beer. Three plates of these amongst four would probably have done us.
Red borscht with meat ravioli. Good sour borscht. The dumplings are filled with very finely minced meat.
The breaded pork chop with potatoes and browned cabbage (a side of hot sauerkraut not shown) was really tasty. Very tender meat. Huge portion. Was delicious cold the next day.
Roasted pork ribs. Quite sweet. Didn’t quite hit the mark.
Potato pancake with cottage ghoulash and white and red cabbage.
Chicken cutlet devolay style. Which is the Polish version of a chicken kiev?
If you are in the market for this kind of food. This is the place to come. A step above anything you’d find in the pubs in the area. And the whole meal was under £75 for four people including two rounds of drinks. And it includes lunch the next day.
488 West Green Road