My Kentish Town located man-pal H and I had begun to get used to a certain way of conducting our weekends. Our Friday nights consisted of multiple bottles of prosecco and pale rosé, a Sky Movies binge and excessive amounts of food, and our Saturday mornings would consist of hangovers and a need for recovery. Brunch was the answer, as it is to many questions any Londoner may have on a weekend. Sometimes we’d stock up from Sainsbury’s on the staple necessities you need for any decent breakfast (bacon, avo, eggs… more prosecco) and sometimes we’d venture out. Not far, mind you… we’d walk all of about 50 yards across the road and hit up Joe’s Southern Kitchen, and we would feast away our headaches. And then one particularly fuzzy morning, as we walked out into the blinding day light, we noticed something horrifying; the shutters were down, all signs of life had disappeared and Joe’s was no more.
So for a month of weekends, we stuck to our homemade brunches and even ventured a little further down Kentish Town road to a new place we discovered which serves amazing Mediterranean breakfasts (Cafe Renoir – order the Cypriot Breakfast, it’s glorious) but we could never help but glance at the closed shutters of Joe’s everytime we left the flat. And then one day, the shutters were gone, and a new independent bar and brasserie called Neighbour had opened, offering stunning seasonal food, great wines and a carefully crafted drinks menu, plus a cocktail bar downstairs for good measure. It appeared the reincarnation had taken effect, and by the looks of the menus our weekends were about to become even more delicious. Unfortunately for H, he’s been away for the duration of the soft launch, so I rounded up my gals on Friday night and we went to enjoy an evening of cocktails and food to see if the new neighbours could live up to my expectations.
We started in Jukes Bar, the relaxed speakeasy style bar beneath the restaurant which has a tasty 241 Happy Hour Weds-Sat between 5-7pm. It is dark and sultry in the basement, with pink light generated from a neon sign which hangs on the wall.
The happy hour menu has about 6 drinks you can currently choose from, with more promised for the near future. Luckily the small offering is pretty super, and I chose the Quince Negroni which was smooth and sweet, with a comforting taste that reminded us of Christmas. The Happy Hour means two of the same drink for the price of one, making it a nice cheap start to the night at £8.75.
As happy hour ended we were shown to our table upstairs, under the skylight at the back of the restaurant where the walls have a mixture of rustic, broken brick and shabby chic distressed tiles. There are elegant lamps on the walls and deep oxblood coloured leather seating. It is comforting and relaxed but there is still an elegance within the dining room, one that wasn’t here before. They have done the place up well. At the front of the dining room there are large doors which open out onto a terrace, a nice spot to enjoy a drink or two if you don’t mind the noise from the road which, when the sun is out, you certainly won’t.
Being a soft launch, the food menu was 50% off, which meant we didn’t need to hang back when it came to picking our preferred dishes. So we started with oysters (£8.50 for 3), complete with all the trimmings of shallot vinegar and lemon juice, two portions of salt cod croquettes (£4.50 each) and a bowl of bread and oil (£3). The oysters were plump and juicy and shucked very well, though a few rogue shells did find their way into my mouth which caused an unpleasant crunch as I chewed.
The croquettes were lovely. Rather like a very posh fish finger, the salt cod filling was smooth and light, and the golden batter coating was lightly crisped. These come in 2’s so we ordered double portions so we could all give them a try.
The main menu is a mixture of full-size main course dishes and a variety of small dishes. I liked the sound of too many things to only go for one main dish, so I plonked for a small dish from each category – meat, fish and vegetarian.
Starting with the Burrata with grated tomato and basil (£8), this large ball of soft, cool creamy cheese was beautifully smooth, with juicy, sweet tomato and a light smattering of pepper. The super thin slices of toast made for a nice addition of crunchy texture. This would work nicely as a starter prior to one of the full size main dished if you weren’t keen on only enjoying small plates.
For my fish small plate, I chose the Salt Cod as I was intrigued by the idea of its accompaniment; the tomato fondue and the yellow split peas (£8). While the dish as a whole was light, it was extremely filling. The fish wasn’t as light or succulent as I expected it to be and perhaps might have been slightly overdone, though the flavour still remained enjoyable. Tomato fondue is, as it turns out, a rather lovely tomato sauce, thick, chunky and juicy. You may wish to avoid the large chunk of garlic hiding within it – do not mistake it for a chunk of the fish.
Finally, for my meaty (not so small) small plate, I had the Duck in brick pastry with a plum puree (£7.50) – like the animal I am I ate this with my hands, like you would a spring roll, to which it wasn’t too dissimilar. With large chunks of duck hidden within the pastry, it certainly was meaty, and the plum sauce was beautifully sweet which naturally complemented the duck well, however it was all a bit too heavy for my liking (especially as I was already a bit full at this juncture) and a smidge on the greasy side.
We washed our meals down with a bottle of the house Languedoc white wine, priced reasonably at £19.50 before heading to the terrace for another cocktail. We were all feeling rather full, delighted at how cheap our meal had been thanks to the soft launch discount, which helped us forgive the somewhat slow (but friendly) service which I’m sure will become more prompt with time. The upstairs bar team don’t seem too clued up on their cocktail menu just yet – I had hoped to enjoy an Old Fashioned for my digestif but they said it would take them 8 minutes to make so I had another Negroni instead. This hardly had a negative impact on the visit but it would have been nice to try something else.
I’m sure H & I will be trying out the brunch menu very soon. I for one am desperate to try the Shakshuka eggs, and it’s great to know that the brunch isn’t just limited to weekends but instead can be enjoyed all week long. I shall eagerly await my next hangover and hope this place has better luck than its predecessors.
If you’re a Kentish Town local, be sure to pop round soon to welcome your new Neighbour.