Smokehouse, Islington, good but pricey

Being 40 is a funny experience, you sort of feel you are somewhere near the hump day of life. This leads to moments of acceptance where you think about buying a nice blazer jacket to wear at the weekend and other times where you are desperate to prove you are still youthful. This can often lead to the inappropriate and unwise! Friday was one of those days! I had a gig lined up with Big Matt in Islington. Stornoway are a folk band I had not actually heard of but the opportunity of a Friday night out was too good to miss. I had booked us in to eat at Smokehouse pre-gig. However with an evening of beer and meat in mind I decided to tone up first. This involved going for a run around Regents Park, I wasn't moving particularly fast so I challenged myself to painfully run up Primrose Hill. This done back to the gym to change and cycle over to Islington which involved a similarly painful hill. Finding Smokehouse was tricky as it actually bang in the middle of one of the nicer residential parts of Islington. It appeared to be an estate pub that had been gentrified up. To be fair they had done a nice job, nothing too outre in the interior and the beer garden looked very welcoming. Though a restaurant it has also pitched itself as somewhere to have a drink. Also being away from the main drag of Upper St it had a more relaxed feel. Beers in hand we were shown to our table in the dining room by a very charming American waitress. It's not a massive room and tables are fairly tightly packed together but there is plenty of light so the room has an airy feel. It is dominated by a not so much open kitchen but a large serving hatch where you can see the chefs platting up. So far ticking lots of boxes.

The food matched the ambience. Hungry after my run we opted for starters as well as mains. I had Goat tacos to start as I don't think I have ever had goat, these were nice with a good distinct flavour. However you couldn't call the portion generous for £7. Big Matt possibly choose better with Brisket roll which was actually unctuous rich brisket, deep fried in a croquette, seriously tasty. Still pretty ravenous I was looking forward to a hearty main and thankfully these were huge, too big if I'm honest. We went for one of the specials which was Korean style pork ribs with Chips and Kimchi. The pork were excellent, really moist and tasty, the spicing having got right into the meat. Kimchi which I am usually ambivalent at best about went very well with the chips giving them a real kick. However I did have a problem with the dish, price and portion. The waitress was a bit unclear as to whether one portion of ribs at £30 would be enough for two so we got one each. It was too much in both quantity and price. £30 quid for a main is very toppy and when you are talking about pork ribs really unjustifiable. It felt like the restaurant being greedy, there no reason why the portion could have made smaller suitable for one and charge £20-£25. I'm really not into the whole sharing your mains thing, it appears to be aimed at making you over order!

No room for dessert after the mass of meat but we did have a couple more beers from their excellent beer list. I'm hoping that the properly assembled beer list becomes standard in London restaurants as often they are a much better match to a lot of dishes than wine. Particularly nice was a strong rich porter I had after the mains which helped wash down the copious pork. So unsurprisingly the bill came £111 for starters, mains and beer to drink which is hefty in my opinion. I can't fault the cooking or service but it really should have come in at £40 a head tops. I'd go back but I'd be more judicious in ordering which really shouldn't be a concern when you are a hedonistic 40 year old. Really rather full we ventured off to the gig which was highbrow (lots of birdsong) but fun. What I should have done was called it quits and gone home to bed. Instead feeling we had to prove our stamina we ended up at the nearby Tap Room for more beer. This in turn lead us to Slim Jim's for yet more beer and bourbon. Needless to say my hangover the next morning was epic leaving me feeling more fifty than forty! Maybe I should buy myself that nice blazer after all…

Thursday, May 14, 2015
Overall rating
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 5

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