Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Smokehouse - Islington

63–69 Canonbury Road, Islington, London, N1 2DG

Sometimes the acclaim for an album, film, or restaurant can be far greater than it deserves. Take the Arctic Monkey's latest album, AM: reviewed by NME as "unarguably the most incredible album of their career. It might also be the greatest record of the last decade". It isn't and anyone who listens to it would agree. The review later compares the Arctic Monkeys with David Bowie, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan - a level of hyperbole Kent Brockman would be proud of.

The issue with overblown hype of this nature is that, ultimately, it leaves you underwhelmed when your turn arrives - exactly the fate suffered by Smokehouse in Islington. While reviews abound state that this is a gastronomic triumph, I found the truth to be quite different.

Located on a fork in the Canonbury Road, just south of Highbury & Islington station, Smokehouse has the gastropub 'look' to a tee - bare walls, scrubbed wooden tables, and an enticing menu. Aside from the incessant smiling of the waitress and her declaration that everything on the menu was 'fantastic' - a slightly biased opinion, surely - the decor, along with the smells, sights, and sounds emanating from the 'hole in the wall' kitchen, makes for a perfect atmosphere.

And then you eat. Hideously over-salted crab on toast, followed by pink and delicious mutton chops, served on a bed of something musty and nondescript. The focus here seems to be on getting the red meat right and damn everything else. With starter and main course over in a blur, a lack of carbs in the meal pushed me to the pudding. I wish it hadn't. Apparently, the Friday Pie was also 'fantastic', but what arrived was an extremely rich, yet strangely flavourless chocolate tort, scattered with cornflakes and accompanied with a small puddle of vanilla ice-cream. Deeply unsatisfying. 

Smokehouse definitely looks the part and has the plaudits to match. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't nearly as amazing as I had been led to believe. Overall a distinctly underwhelming experience.

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