I had the pleasure of dining at Smoke and Salt twice in one week – once to sample their October menu, and second to try out their Halloween feast, a one off supperclub for the night.
Their current residency is based at The Chapel Bar in Islington. They’ve been based there for nearly a year now, cooking out of the small kitchen in an upstairs area that seats about 20 people including a terrace area.
The October menu kicked off with rated pretzel knots, served with a generous portion of treacle butter. The pretzel was divine, crusty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, coated with oats and salt. The treacle butter melted with just a hint of sweetness that wrapped around the pretzel so perfectly. We weren’t even halfway done with the pretzels when more dishes came swooping in from our friendly waiter.
The next three following dishes were the table treats: grilled runner beans with garlic aioli, Calabrian salami drizzled with strawberry vinaigrette, and a King Edward potato crisp with herbs. Everything was so delicious, I would’ve been happy just snacking away at the table treats for the whole night.
Flavours at that point were strong so when the next dish of smoked mackerel with the unagi cream, the delicateness of that dish with the kohlrabi shavings was a lovely surprise. Their ancient techniques of smoking and salting were evidently on display. The salami from the earlier dish and now the mackerel, there was no disagreeing that these chefs know what they’re doing, both having worked at Michelin-starred restaurants.
I should add by now that every dish at this point has been served personally by Aaron and Remi (I wonder who’s Smoke and who’s Salt and if they’re nicknames for each other?) with a wonderful preface to each dish. They’re clearly chefs driven by passion and hold enough graciousness to ask for feedback genuinely. They honestly want to make sure you’re having a good time.
At this point I would have been ready for dessert, but still had the main course to go. Or so I thought. Out they brought a pre-main snack of ancient grain porridge topped with micro salad. It all sounds a bit fussy, but wow, what a nice little dish. Something in the micro salad was very aniseed-heavy which overpowered the entire bowl, but the ancient grains with the sweet corn is something I will inevitably try to recreate at home (and no doubt fail at it).
Now it was finally time for the main: Beef in Embers. Now that just sounds like a cozy, cooked by the fire, autumnal dish. Beef cheek slow cooked with elderberries, trumpet mushrooms, salsify topped with crispy forbidden rice. The sizable piece of beef just fell apart with each bite, the richness of the sauce balanced perfectly with the elderberries. My friend wiped her plate clean.
At this point, we were both so satisfied, having chosen a wine that paired so beautifully with all the food, we didn’t think there was anything else that could top the night. Oh but there was because dessert was up: Sunroot and Apple. I learned from Remi that sunroot were in fact Jerusalem artichokes. The dessert comprised of sunroot ice cream, glazed and roasted sunroot, hazelnut sponge cake, granny smith apple puree and apple chips. This dessert was the epitome of Autumn. The sweetness of the sunroot, paired with the ice cream and the tangy apple puree were just made for each other. The hazelnut sponge was light and airy and the apple crisps provided an interesting texture. It might sound like a lot on a plate, but it worked.
And it was so divine.
To top it off, we were served petit fours of caneles of pumpkin and marshmal
lows with strawberry. All in all, a fine night of eating. It’s clear that each dish is thought out carefully, each menu planned with attention to detail. It’s high end cooking without the pretentiousness. Approachable and hands on, it’s exactly my type of dining.
The Halloween feast did not fail. These guys love what they do and they
don’t want to disappoint. It’s clear they’re experimenting and some dishes might not work for everyone. But on the two nights I’ve been there, every dish was a winner.
Smoke and Salt have now swapped over to their November menu and will be at The Chapel Bar till the end of the month. They have dates available for Christmas available on their website. A single set menu is available, an option of 3 courses for a very affordable £25, or a 5 course feast for £38 (and it’s way more than 5 courses). With advance notice, the guys can cater for pretty much any dietary requirement. Having seen the new November menu, I will most definitely be back for more.
Contact: Smoke and Salt at The Chapel Bar – 29 Penton St, London N1 9PX. Ph. 020 7833 4090. Website.
‘A self-proclaimed vegetarian but will eat anything in the name of culture. Loves food, photography, people, and a slight unhealthy obsession with dogs’ -Michelle Chen