Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Canonbury Kitchen Islington Upper Street review - plagued by bad location


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Address: 19 Canonbury Lane
London N1 2AS
Tel: 020 7226 9791
Nearest Tube station: Highbury and Islington

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £15pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: **
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
It was one of those typical English summer day - light drizzle punctuated by spots of sunshine and the occasional downpours. To be fair, the downpours over in London can at best be considered as light drizzles back home. Here, you could still walk a mile through one without a brolly and not having your underwear soaked through.

Wisely, we decided against straying far from home on Sunday so we ended up at Canonbury Kitchen for brunch. I call it brunch not because Canonbury Kitchen calls it that but I had deliberately starved myself of breakfast after putting on a whopping 2kg in a fortnight. Regardless, that should up my appetite for the carbonara that I would order at Canonbury Kitchen after that.

I have always wanted to check it out since we chances upon it over a weekend. But it was on of those restaurants that did dinners only so we ended up at Sea Fish - a sorry excuse for a fish and chips restaurant.

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Having had her lunch at Canonbury Kitchen earlier on Friday, Wife told me that the Italian restaurant is now opened for brunch (11am-4pm) from Fridays to Sundays. So there we were with LO in tow, braving the rain for our brunch.

Since its opening around six months ago, it seems that business has been a bit slow at Canonbury Kitchen. The owner whose name I neglected to ask told me that "they do most of their business in the evening". Shouldn't that be the case? I mean, the restaurant didn't use to open for any other times, did it? Presumably the slow business due to the fact that Canonbury Kitchen isn't on Islington Upper Street but on Canonbury Lane, a street that runs perpendicular to the main thoroughfare.

If it's not doing so well in the location department, you would have thought that it would fare better either on the price or food factor. A quick look at its somewhat short menu shows that most dishes go for around £7 to £9. Very reasonably priced for a decent restaurant in the area I supposed. Foodwise, it turned out to be a mixed bag.

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As mentioned, I was gunning for Canonbury Kitchen's carbonara. After having decent one at Dolcetto earlier, I was hungry for more. In more ways than one, the carbonara (£7.50) at Canonbury Kitchen reminded me of a recipe an Italian friend passed me. "Absolutely no cream, just egg and milk..." she told me firmly. The spaghetti was tossed in an eggy mixture (much like bits of scrambled eggs). Those who are in search of authenticity in their carbonara would probably love this. It didn't do it for me unfortunately, particularly when the spaghetti hadn't been properly drained and the chef was overenthusiastic with the salt.

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The veal Milanese (£8.50) came either with chips or salad. Though Wife asked for chips, the dish arrived with some lettuce and onions slices. We didn't realized that that was the salad and asked a staff whether the chips would be arriving soon. "Ah yes" was the reply and a plate of chips appeared minutes later. We found out that the chips set us back by a further £3.50 when the bill arrived. Believe me, we did query the bill but the staff mumbled something along the lines of we weren't clear with our orders.

We would have been less sore about it if the veal tasted fine. It wasn't. It was halfheartedly cooked and limp. "Should have gone for the pasta," Wife muttered.

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Dessert was apple strudel (£5). Warm chopped up apples filled the thin pastry complemented by a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream. With a sprinkle of softened pine nuts dispersed in the strudel, the dessert was fabulous.

Canonbury Kitchen's food isn't brilliant. Not by a far stretch. But I've seen worse restaurants in the vicinity having more customers on a Sunday afternoon (yes, I'm talking about Sea Fish). Its location and lack of publicity aren't helping matters a bit. They have put up a small billboard along Upper Street pointing towards the restaurant. Only time will tell how well that'll work.


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