Friday, 4 March 2011

The Blue Legume review Islington Upper Street - salvation for parents with kids


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Address: 177 Upper Street
London N1 1RG
Tel: 020 7851 7051
Nearest Tube station: Highbury & Islington

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £15pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
Having a meal with a baby in tow is always a challenge. Not only is having an intelligent conversation a technical impossibility, you’d probably have to take turns preventing utensils from flying all over while shoving bits of food into your mouth in the most efficient manner. That pretty much defeats the point of dining out.

Interestingly, parents with young children are the most desperate to dine out as such opportunities are hard to come by. Contrary to the popular belief, there is no such thing as setting a so called ‘routine’ for young ones, especially if rationality has yet to be comprehended. Instead, parents find themselves adjusting to their kids’ routine – no dinners after 8pm, no long lunches, no leisure breakfasts.

The Blue Legume, after establishing its flagship restaurant at Stoke Newington, a miniature nappy valley in itself, has opened up a second restaurant at Islington Upper Street. Halfway between Angel and Highbury & Islington Tube stations, The Blue Legume is undoubtedly the salvation of battle-scarred parents.

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We arrived on a late Sunday morning and ran into a fellow couple we met at parents’ support group (yes, you do need that). They were there early and were just about to leave. We realised how wise that was as the crowd gradually built up after 11am on Sundays, and the noise level can be a bit unbearable if you are looking for a quiet meal.

Despite all that, The Blue Legume has got this calming effect with its skylight that practically illuminates the dining area towards the back of the restaurant with interesting displays that revolved around the theme of home hung up with two feet intervals on the walls. Some with baby dolls were well… I leave it up to you to form your own opinion about them though.

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Churros con chocolate was one of the Specials of the Day and we placed an order for that the moment we settled down. At £5.25 for four pieces, The Blue Legume’s churros don’t come cheap. While the size and quality is way better than that at Camino, it was initially served without any chocolate. Puzzled, we asked the staff for it and he was no wiser. After a quick word with his colleague at the bar counter, he returned with a hot chocolate. Yes, a hot chocolate. Thicker than the normal hot chocolate drink perhaps but it was definitely no liquid chocolate that we had at Camino at a fraction of the price. What a bummer. That said, the churros were lightly deep fried and sprinkled with some fine sugar. A perfect morning snack (hot chocolate asisde).

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Famished, I went for the cumberland sausage breakfast (£6.95). What was served, while competently done, was rather unexciting and bordering on being a bit too bland. The Blue Legume might have a really decent bulk discount on mushrooms but hey, I am not complaining.

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As usual, Wife ended up with the better deal. Her breakfast in a bap (£5.50) was exactly that. Two rashes of sinful bacon topped with an egg and stuffed in between two lightly toasted baps. Again, nothing fancy here but there’s something comforting about bacon and baps (especially soft ones lightly powdered on the surface). Wife was biting into it with relish while I feasted on my bland mushrooms. That didn’t help matters.

With a baby changing room and its stacks of baby highchairs (we counted at least six) placed opposite the bar, The Blue Legume is clearly expecting loads of screamers. However, the good news is that parents with babies are generally herded towards the back end of the restaurant while the rest of the world can dine in peace up front. I’m not sure whether that’s The Blue Legume’s policy but that was what I noticed the couple of times I was there. Incidentally, the arrival of The Blue Legume so far down Upper Street may mark the gradual gentrification of the vicinity. It is a welcome addition to the area nevertheless.

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