We had high hopes for John Salt, a trendy café/restaurant/bar in Islington as the food menu and website was simple yet well nice little details. The restaurant is based at the end of Long Street nearer Kentish town/Hampstead and so is off the main tourist route.
There are two floors to the restaurant, the downstairs which has a vast bar and leather sofas as well as benches for diners near the window. Upstairs there is a balcony floor a quarter of the size of downstairs and this is dedicated to food. The restaurant/bar is extremely simple in style. Plain cement floors with brick bare walls in an almost warehouse type feel.
We had booked the upstairs resturants as we had heard this was better for service and were seated on a large table sharing with a group of somewhat picky twenty something women (more on them later). The balcony could hold a maximum of twenty and there was a tiny kitchen like bar in the corner. We were given a thick cream piece of card which had the Sunday menu on it. Unfortunately the Sunday menu is not the normal restaurant menu and consists of Sunday roast options of pork, chicken or beef. We had hoped for the deliciously rustic options we had seen on the website but consoled ourselves with the starters which were the same.
We first ordered a selection of cocktails that were unusual but not over the top. We ordered an Angels Kiss which consisted of Somerset cider brandy, beefeater gin, fresh raspberries, pineapple juice, lemon & sage and a Albion High ball which was beefeater gin, chase rhubarb, homemade lemon & orange sherbet, soda, orange twist. Both of these were outstanding, the former served long and straight and the other in a martini glass. This showed real knowledge of alcohol and its complimentary ingredients. A refreshing cocktail list (in all senses) as a small list with usual cocktails complimenting a few old classics. We were served with a jug of water which came out in a kitsch fish design that glugged (like a fish) when poured – a nice touch.
For starter we ordered raw beef, pear with sesame and the burnt leeks, parmesan, egg yolk and truffle vinaigrette. The beef was lacking in flavour and a little watery and the pear was under ripe. The beef however was a bold purple and just melted in the mouth. I felt it needed a richer sauce/vinaigrette to make this really stand out. The vegetarian leek option came out in a ceramic casserole dish and had eggs that had been roasted with chopped leeks. This was very tasty but we were not sure where they got the name ‘burnt leak’ as these were stewed in own juices and a long way from being burnt or even caramelised.
We ordered a beef and pork Sunday roast, usually I would go for the chicken but this was served as a whole poussin and I am rather put off by chicken on the bone. The beef came out rare as we asked and was well cooked and the carrots and cabbage were tender. However there was limited vegetables for my liking and I had to ask twice for mustard and horseradish which I would have come out as a given.
The service was extremely friendly although slightly scatty and not completely knowledgeable of the menu and the chef’s boundaries in so much as what we could add or take away from the dishes we ordered.
We followed the main course with a selection of sorbets and a crème brulee. The sorbets – strawberry, exotic apple and lime – were incredibly fruity and sour; a lovely palette cleanser. The crème brulee was not as deep as we would have liked but had a nice crisp topping that cracked when touched with spoon as well as having vanilla pods folded in throughout.
We left feeling full yet a little underwhelmed. John Salt has it right in so many aspects; its simplicity, well thought out menu, unusual ingredients and unpretentious atmosphere but lacks efficient service, full flavour impact as well as falling into the trap of being too simple especially for the price. Do not get me wrong this place is not extortionate but you would expect more for the final bill. Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls thinks this place is worth a try if in the area – if not for food then defiantly for the scrumptious cocktails.
Food Atmosphere Service