Review: Michael Nadra Primrose Hill

It was a balmy night in London and we fancied some local food. Primrose Hill is just a hop, skip and a jump away and I’d heard murmurings about Michael Nadra, a restaurant almost completely hidden from view next to the canal. Sure enough, just past Melrose and Morgan, was a little path that led down to the smart looking restaurant. This is Michael Nadra’s second eponymous restaurant, the other being in Chiswick. And the man himself (I think?) greeted us and checked we were being looked after, so he presumably does split his attentions between both restaurants admirably.

It was a Friday night and the restaurant was quietly buzzy, not full but with enough people to give some atmosphere. It has a large heated garden (cocktail garden) that you can eat in during good weather, although we were inside. Large windows let plenty of light in, and the decor in general is smart bistro style. Leather banquettes with smart crockery / cutlery and linen but nothing overly fancy. It’s £30 for 2 courses and £36 for 3 courses. Not outrageous for the area I suppose, but not cheap either for a “local” restaurant so I was expecting good things. There are quite a few supplements as well (e.g. the fillet steak, in fact 5 dishes in total have supplements). The wine list is extensive, with just about enough by the glass / carafe although a few more (especially on the shorter red section) would have helped.

Tasty chewy rolls Soup Artful fish

Bread was brought over, four slightly small looking rolls that defied their looks and were delicious. Softer than expected with a good chew and the most fantastic salted French butter. I started with an interesting combination of seared tuna, squid, green beans and gnocchi. The tuna was properly seared with a bright red interior, and the mix of squid tubes and tentacles was admirably soft with a bit of char from a hot grilling. The gnocchi was OK if a bit heavy and lacking the herb flavour promised. Green beans were al-dente and the tapenade on the side was salty and moreish. All good components, it wasn’t a cohesive dish for me though but tasty individual morsels. And it was topped with a lot of basil. A tiny bit odd. I think some chile would have added kick and brought it together. Good execution at least but maybe a few changes needed to the concept. I had a very nice glass of Chablis (£8) with it, soft and drinkable. The wife went for the asparagus, broccoli and spinach veloute. A large bowl of soup topped with microgreens was brought over. Unfortunately very under-seasoned, she requested salt (none was at the table) and that lifted it significantly. A good bowl of soup after that, very light with good greens flavour and the addition of toasted almonds added depth and body. But quite expensive as part of a £30 two course menu.

Pink lamb Plenty of chicken

Mains. I had lamb rump, sautéed sweetbreads and braised neck with ratatouille. The rump was delicious, very soft for a tricky cut to cook. And the neck was braised beautifully, soft and unctuous. Similarly the sweetbread was excellent with a nice crust and soft middle, I wish there had been another one. It was combined with a decent ratatouille and green beans. Paired with a wonderful Italian Pinot Nero, light and delicious with the lamb. The wife had chicken with borlotti & edamame beans, baby artichokes and tomatoes. A big plate of food came, with a variety of confit chicken cuts (breast, thigh and wings I believe). It was sitting atop a base of beans, with artichokes and tomatoes. The chicken was beautifully soft and flavoursome (after some more seasoning from us), and the other components matched well and were well cooked. But as a dish, too unrefined at this price point I’d say. And big.

Oozing fondant

We shared a dessert to finish. The classic chocolate fondant paired with the slightly trendier salted caramel ice cream. The fondant was absolutely excellent, very soft and flowing in the middle with deep flavour. The ice cream was good, flecked with salty caramel bits. Although somewhat melted. Paired with a sweet riesling which was delicious (if not the best combination with the chocolate, to be fair as mentioned by the waiter).

So, all-in, £105 for 5 courses and 3 glasses of wine. I was very pleased with the meal actually, the friendly knowledgable service (our waiter was excellent) and “locals” atmosphere helped perhaps, since the food wasn’t perfect. But, having said all that, it was an enjoyable meal with good cooking and ingredients. But, perhaps a touch more bite and refinement in the dishes would elevate it to the next level.

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Kensington Wine Rooms

Notting Hill Gate has always seemed a bit dreary to me, somewhere to travel through rather than to. But having been to a show and ravenous for some sustenance, we searched out something quick and delicious. Having rejected a few dodgier looking restaurants, we wandered towards Kensington and found the wine rooms. Very smart looking, it was full of plenty of suited “businessman” and dressed up women seeking some high glass vino. They also had a decent looking food menu so we popped in to give it a go.

Iberico pork

I had the Iberico pork, served with greens, carrots and romesco. It came with a tinge of pink (the waiter had said medium rare) although actually I would have even had it a bit less. But it did have a fantastic smokey flavour, they must have some sort of grill. Carrots and greens were solid, but the standout part was the Romesco sauce. Smokey, nutty and rich, it was really delicious with the pork and brought it all together. Rather than browsing the very extensive menus, we went for the recommended pairings. Mine was a Le Soula Blanc, it was too sharp at first but rounded off nicely into a good match for the dish.

Rare tunaAnna opted for tuna, which came perfectly rare alongside potatoes, beans and salsa verde. Simple and classic, but nothing to fault about it. It was matched with a very interesting natural wine, cloudy orange in colour and initially tasting more of cider than wine. But again it opened up nicely and also proved a good match.

The food is simple but effective here, and along with the amazing wine selection makes a good choice for dinner. It was around £60 all in for two mains and two large glasses of wine, not particularly cheap I suppose but worth it for the wine experience.

 

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The Beagle, Hoxton

A mere matter of metres from the shiny Hoxton overground station (that strange Orange squiggle on the TFL maps), you’ll find the Beagle standing proudly. Housed in a couple of grand railway arches, they have been buffed and polished until they gleam. Certainly the smartest arch conversion I’ve seen, the brickwork in particular is immaculate. In the right hand arch, a drinking area with a long bar stocking reasonable cocktails (mine was somewhat tart) and a very good selection of bottled and draught London beers. I’ve been in for drinks a few times to soak up the convivial atmosphere.

Octopus

Tonight I was more concerned with the left-hand arch though, the restaurant area. The menu was tantalising, particularly having failed to secure a last minute table in the past. The restaurant area is smartly turned out, but not stuffy and very inviting for a long boozy dinner. I can never resist octopus so that was my starter choice, it was served with pesto and a tomato salad. The octopus was well cooked, very tender as you would hope. Tomatoes were soft and juicy, and plenty of herbs in the pesto. My only quibble was there was a touch too much acidity, some vinegar in the dressing I think. But otherwise a good start. I opted for a glass of a Rousanne which paired well.

Sweetbreads, bacon and peas

Another menu favourite of mine, sweetbreads. And even better, served as a main course with peas, bacon and shoots. Nothing not to like about this, with crisp and moist sweetbreads, salty bacon and rich jus. The peas and shoots cut through adding freshness. A perfect Spring / Summer meaty dish.

Some of the remaining steak!Glassy fluffy chips

My dining compatriots saved themselves for one of the sharing rib-eye cuts, served with chips, watercress and a horseradish sauce. What came was a glorious piece of meat, sliced on a board. Cooked perfectly medium-rare as requested and well seasoned and rested, we could have been in any of London’s best steak restaurants (i.e. Goodman’s). The meat had the unmistakeable grass-fed funk of quality meat, simple but top notch. And the chips deserve special mention, glass-like exterior and a fluffy interior. To go with that we ordered the acclaimed Lebanese Chateau Musar, for £32 it really is amazing value and once opened up it got better and better.

Lemon pudding and biscuit Panna cotta with rhubarbWe couldn’t resist dessert after enjoying all that so much. The other 2 both ordered a lemon dessert (posset perhaps) served with a shortbread biscuit. Sharp, lemony and creamy, all good. Somehow the very chatty waitress thought it was my birthday (it wasn’t!) and despite protestations, I got a lovely candle and rendition of Happy Birthday from half the restaurant. Quite surreal but hilarious still. It was planted in my rhubarb alongside a well made panna cotta. Plenty of vanilla and a smooth wobbly texture. I had to try the rhubarb eau de vie alongside it of course, very much along the lines of grappa (aka rocket fuel).

All in, about £55 a head including a pre-dinner drink each. Good value. The menu is enticing with nothing too glamorous / outrageous but lots of comforting tasty dishes, and the execution was rock solid. I’ll definitely be back.

 

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