Upper Street in Angle and Islington used to be a wasteland of chain restaurants. It’s where you used to meet your uni friends for a bad night out and overpriced drinks on a strip that was a sight to be seen in on a Saturday night. That could still be the case but with the addition of Galley restaurant – times be a’changin.
Recent openings include Oldroyd which we loved (review), Meatliquor N1 which we loved (review), Pizza Locadeli which we didn’t and Brewdog’s Dog Eat Dog hotdog joint recently shut very quietly in a rare retreat by the craft beer brand – though I am now hearing their looking to redevelop the site and relaunch with a new concept. But of a street that was basically chains – you can now see the change with new restaurants and a sudden blooming of real estate agents.
Galley is the brainchild of siblings Oriona Robb and Marcel Grzjb. You can certainly see the influence Oriona has had on the fit out and style of the restaurant – lets just say she’s first on the list to come and redesign my home when the time comes. It’s all deep greens, orange and blues crossed with vintage cool and leather.
We settle in with a Ginnever made with Broker’s gin, lychee juice, lemongrass and a fair kick of chilli – very refreshing thought they might need to tone it down slightly as it did mask the overall flavours in the cocktail. The Camden Sour Ron Abuelo Anejo rum and Camden Gentleman’s Wit went down a treat as I do love a citrus sour cocktail.
Having not taken off as much as it has in Australia, we jump at the chance to get seated on the counter in front of an open kitchen and we suggest you do the same. The open kitchen here features a Moroccan style tiles and a stunning Carrara marble worktop that sweeps its way in front of the kitchen. It reminds me a of a more conservative European Palomar doing experience to be had. There’s a mish mash of photos and posters on the walls, the bare light bulbs are very Scandi influenced and and very on trend.
Polish born and bred, Marcel takes his inspiration for his launch menu at Galley from the cooking styles and flavours of North Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, his love of creative cooking, expertise in fish and his eye for detail is evident across this whole menu. It’s a menu that if you love seafood I suggest getting stuck in because this is simple food cooked very well.
The menu is less “what should I have” and more “what dishes will I kick myself for not ordering”. Small plates start things off as they mean to go on.
Hand-picked Cornish crab with crostini, smoked garlic aioli, confit tomatoes has beautiful fresh sweetness being imparted from both the crab and the fresh tomatoes. First impressions of these small plates is that they are probably a little more expensive than your usual small plates at other restaurants (at around the £9 mark), and while the mains look really, really delicious – you could easily settle in at Galley and order 6 small plates to share amongst two of you. That would be a really nice post tapas meal if you had it in you. You won’t walk out of the place feeling cheated at all.
Wookey Hole cheddar & ham hock croquettes w harissa mayonnaise do the job well. Croquettes are incredibly easy to love with all their potato filled cheesy goodness – but these felt a little more grown up and sophisticated with the incision of pressed ham inside making them much more meaty and filling. A nice ratio of melted cheese to ham – and it’s not just any old cheese, this is Wookey Hole cheese.
My favourite dish of the starers was the crispy Cornish squid with Japanese pepper sauce and baby coriander. You find crispy squid on every second menu you look at these days and a place really needs to be doing something interesting for it to cut through the noise. Light, fresh and has a nice blend of sweet and sour (with me being a sweet and sour fiend I can se why this worked for me.
Presentation-wise, the Galley Fish Stew w aioli, sourdough croutons looks like I’d just walked into a bistro in Marseille, France with this fresh fish bouillabaisse and a lovely kick of aniseed coming through the stew. Presentation is stunning – and for only £9 this is a great dish to start things off with.
Galley certainly feels like a lovely personal dining space. It’s nice given that London has been through this phase of restaurants opening that felt very small and inviting and then being rolled out across the city and country – like Dishoom and Polpo. It now seems were heading back to getting some independent characterful dining spaces.
Lobster pappardelle with heritage tomatoes and Jerusalem artichokes is my kind of jam. Beautiful homemade pasta and the lobster is nice and subtle – it’s just a really nice homely dish with an amazing stock. I’m not really sure how best to describe this cooking. It’s way above home cooking and feels very unpretentious and nice and good…
Pan-fried sea bass with gnocchi, peas, courgettes, wild mushrooms, truffle oil comes in a sort of creme verde broth with courgettes, peas and potatoes. This is a freaky fresh dish packed with flavour – very elevated flavours, easy on the palate in a very generous sized portion. It’s a simple but complex dish – not too many dimensions, but the flavour found in each dish is confident and bold.
Dessert was in the form of a salted caramel tart with green tea ice cream, chilli & hazelnut praline. So light and just what you need after some quite large portion dishes. The pastry was perfect and the matcha tea (which is something I’m not usually a fan of) was matched well with the tart. The hidden addition of chilli had me searching for exactly where they had squirrelled it.
A Jaffa dessert cocktail rounded the night off – Ron Abuelo, orange spiced sugar, Araku coffee liqueur, chocolate sauce and double cream. Possibly a little ambitious after the meal we had just eaten…
I really couldn’t fault any of the food we had at Galley. Everything on the menu appeals to me and I will definitely be back to try the dishes I didn’t get a chance to have on this visit. The price represents good value, as it’s not break the bank expensive but rather refreshingly hits the mark with the prices it’s pitching. The price for London finally represents what you get in front of you – it’s very honest and well judged. They have obviously taken their time to properly train up their service staff (Maria was an outstanding waitress) as they are all mature and confident in how they go about service. A rare thing to find in central London.
Oldroyd now has some serious competition.
Contact: Galley – 105-106 Upper St, Islington N1 1QN. Ph. Website