Restaurant review: The Canonbury Tavern, N1

The newly refurbished bar at The Canonbury, Islington

The newly refurbished bar at The Canonbury, Islington - Credit: Archant

Boasting a huge leafy garden tucked away in one of Islington’s quietest and greenest corners, the Canonbury Tavern is one of those rare finds in London where you feel a million miles away from the city.

Grilled miso-cured beef with ginger, sweet radish and burnt onion

Grilled miso-cured beef with ginger, sweet radish and burnt onion - Credit: Paul Winch-Furness / Photographe

For that reason, even if the food was average, it would probably still pull in the punters. But luckily, thanks to new management, this gastro pub now has a restaurant menu to almost match its key asset.

Head chef Nathan Richardson has put together an adventurous menu described as offering “modern interpretations of British classics”.

There’s a fine line between enhancing classics for a modern palette and, well, insanity. For the most part the dishes stay well within the realm of sound mind but there are a few that go one step too far – why, for example, serve turbot and ox cheek on the same plate?

That said, the fish, served with samphire, and the ox were both delicious and perfectly cooked.Similarly with the duck breast – I think there’s a reason why creators of the great classics have not previously thought to serve it with coconut dal.

The dining room at The Canonbury, Islington

The dining room at The Canonbury, Islington - Credit: Paul Winch-Furness / Photographe

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But purist outlook aside, at least this menu is offering up something more memorable. And it’s a good job it does because there’s plenty of tough competition in this neck of the woods.

The starters were the highlight – tender octopus and king prawns on toast and salmon tartare with sorrel, lemon egg yolk and barley crackers.

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Other mains – seared seabass with cucumber salad and pork belly with cabbage, leek and croquettes – were all tempting alongside the more creative options of hake served with chorizo, spinach and scallops or, for the vegetarians, truffled celeriac with apple mushrooms and a fried duck egg.

Desserts also ranged from traditional chocolate ganache and creme brulee, to more original elderflower panna cotta and grilled pineapple with banana parfait and cindered toffee (exceptional).

Prices are very reasonable – mains are around the £15 mark – considering the quality of the food and how well everything is cooked, not to mention the gourmet presentation and sophisticated setting.

For those after more casual dining, the grill menu offers up gourmet burgers, steaks and Mediterranean inspired salads. Going by the number of people tucking into these in the garden, they appear pretty popular too.

Though the garden is perhaps the talking point of this pub, the interior shouldn’t be overlooked.

The bar area has recently undergone a refurbishment, bringing in a bit of colour, while the dining room features grand oak panelling alongside large bay windows and designer lighting.

A beautiful pub, both inside and out, serving top quality, original dishes.

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