Many of London’s restaurants seems to be obsessed with big, bold, smack-you-in-the-face dishes these days – smoky slabs of meat smothered with tart barbecue sauce and pickled chillies, punchy Korean slaw slapped on top of crispy fried hunks of chicken – you know what we mean. Which is why we were delighted to find Josh Dallaway (ex Jackdaw on Lower Clatpton Road) has taken pity on our overloaded, jaded taste buds and created a simple menu that shines with subtle but beautifully paired flavours. I don’t think I am overdoing it to say some dishes written up on the chalkboard were reminiscent of Petersham Nurseries when it was at its very best (late 2000s, by my estimate).
I also don’t think it’s overdoing it to say that eating at the Mountgrove Bothy (ex art gallery near Clissold Park) is something of a re-education. Today’s sharing menu scene means we have become accustomed to plates popping out of a kitchen whenever they are ready, but here they trickle to your table – forcing you to focus on each offering (they all are interesting enough to be taken in isolation) while exploring the well-priced wine list (there’s a funky vermentino available by the glass that’s really worth trying).
Working out of a kitchen so minimalist I would struggle to whip up a bowl of pasta and pesto (my student day’s staple), Josh is a one-man wonder as he pops out from behind his induction hob to explain each dish. That’s right, there’s not a deep-fat fryer in sight. Ingredients (many of them foraged) are seasonal and unfussy and delicious. It is food that demands you savour every mouthful, and consider each complementary component.
We start off with lettuce, nori and crème fraiche, and wow does it taste good. It’s a master class in simple ingredients done really well.
Crab toast and togarashi (Japanese seven spice) is super delicate, an utterly satisfying blend of sweet and savoury.
Similarly, blending flavours and textures, the smoked fig leaf and radicchio with Stracciatella di bufala manages to be crisp, clean and creamy all at the same time.
A cleansing Asian broth with lardo, spinach and pickled Kumquat feels light and refreshing thanks to the pretty slivers of citrus that cut through the fat.
And, off-menu for now, a meat and mushroom dish takes the flavours up a notch. “Dirty” nduja pork sausage smashed with fleshy mushrooms and fermented broccoli is the most intense dish so far with an earthy, umami-packed rising heat.
The journey finishes up with rice pudding cooked in goat’s milk with purple basil and strawberry reduction – sweet and savoury again, more delicate flavours that we don’t reckon we’ll tire of any time soon.
We sit back satisfied. Not just because this great succession of small plates has left us happily full, but because we have been reminded of what a joy it is to graze. To sit back and contemplate rather than hastily devour.
Like the menu, opening times here are compact for now (a few evenings a week plus Sunday brunch) so check the website for the latest regularly changing menu and times.
Contact: The Mountgrove Bothy – 90 Mountgrove Road, N52lt. Nearest tube Finsbury Park. http://www.themountgrovebothy.com
Thursday + Friday 6-late.