October 21st, 2013


I had been keen to try Smokehouse for a while.  Often a new restaurant opens, I will read a glowing review, then after deluding myself that I’ll book a table right there and then it will be put on a to-do list never to be thought of again.  Then months later I find the to-do list scribbled on a manky receipt at the bottom of my bag.  I’ll delude myself once more and then put it back feeling very organised to have such an infallible system.

This past year John Salt was one of these restaurants, I had salivated over the menu and clapped my hands with glee at the fact it was practically on my doorstep.  But then I forgot about it.  Then comes Smokehouse to remind me.  It boasts Neil Rankin fresh from John Salt fame and an origin story of the Pitt Cue Co.  It has also taken over the delightful location where the House used to be, a twinkly lit gastropub which I used to go to all the time but then stopped.  I have no idea why, those lights were very becoming on a chilly evening in leafy Canonbury.

This time though I actually to-did it.  Although to be fair to my uselessness it was on a list for a couple of months, we didn’t book a table and we turned up at 7.30pm on a Friday night wholly expecting to be turned away, so it wasn’t a perfect plan.  But low and behold, we were not rejected cruelly like an over-25 on X-Factor but instead we were welcomed in with open arms, offered a dinky table in the bar area and were brought gin and tonics forthwith.

In fact it was this service which sold the place to me.  Yes, the Foie gras, apple pie and duck egg thingy was great fun, yes the crab toast wasn’t just crab toast etc. etc.  Oh, okay then my mutton chops were fabulous with their silky capanota and the anchovies and parsley showing off all over the place.  Sure my Vanilla Vanilla Vanilla reminded me exactly why we should ALWAYS pour a bucket load of alcohol over ice cream for it to even be worthwhile.

But it was the service that sang to me.  Never once did it feel intrusive or distant, it was that special place in between.  The nirvana of offering to bring another glass of wine before I’ve finished the previous one without making a fuss or making me feel like an alky.  The breezy easiness of getting the bill without us having to perform semaphore or wait until we’re 80.  Oh, and the cherry on top of the Friday Pie (which they also serve for dessert by the way and it’s very nice thanks for asking; honeycomb, chocolate and caramel) is those lights.  They still twinkle as if it were yesterday.

63–69 Canonbury Road,
London N1 2DG
020 7354 1144