Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Elk in the Woods

The location: Amid expensive boutiques and junk antique stalls in Islington's Camden Passage. We were actually planning to try The Breakfast Club after it was recommended in Time Out, but there was a queue snaking out of the door and patience is not one of my virtues.

The spec: A friendly elk head looks at us from a wooden slatted wall. There is a distant aura of a trendy ski chalet. It's not quite a bar, not quite a restaurant and there's a good mix of people from an old lady daintily sipping tea to young couples brunching on cocktails. The staff are friendly, joking.

The good: The chips - a huge bowl of thin, crispy, hand-made, skin-still-on deliciousness for £4. The bloody Marys (off menu) come with a good kick of spice, and a good range of alcohol-free concoctions (£3.50). Plus, I like the decor and the service.

The bad: The rest of the food - it's pretty blah. The husband plays adventurous with South African kudu – a rather majestic-looking antelope -- and zebra skewers (£4.75). It's a tiny portion - but then it did come from the "smalls" section of the menu - and fails to score any sparks in the taste department.
If memory serves, that’s our second disappointing experience with zebra, the first being in a French restaurant on Upper Street. On the other hand, I’ve had perfectly nice horse before, for example in T’Kelderke in Brussels.

My wild mushroom, potato and artichoke pie is very bland. It's basically a pastry case filled with boiled new potatoes. It needs something to liven it up - cheese perhaps, or sausage, or both. The menu promised parmesan but I can't spot it. And for £12 this is hideously over-priced. About the only thing I like about it is that it comes with sour cream.

The verdict: Great place for cocktails (£7) and chips, but go elsewhere for a proper meal. Hardens, again, is pretty much spot on.

The Elk in the Woods, 31 Camden Passage, N1 8EA; Tel. 0207 2263535 Tube: Angel,

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