Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Sat Nov 24 2012
In a restaurant, all seats may be equal, but some are decidedly more equal than others. So having booked at this grungy Islington bar-cum-diner a week in advance, we were disappointed to be told that the upstairs dining room (a cosy galleried space) was full, and that we’d have to sit at one of the communal tables in the bar. Eying the backless stools and proximity to the door, we pleaded once more with the waitress. ‘But it’s the same’, she bleated, adopting a petulant stance, ‘It’s exactly the same’. It wasn’t, but we didn’t have a choice, so we sat on these less-equal of seats, and waited for menus. When they finally arrived, things started looking up.
Head chef Neil Rankin (formerly of Pitt Cue Co) deals in meaty smoke-house cooking with elegant, modish twists. We swooned over blistered, puffy pork crackling topped with a light salad of crab and fennel, the faint aniseed notes ringing through the creamy white meat. A barbecued poussin slathered in a sweet, tangy marinade with just a hint of Tabasco was no less memorable. Next up came a coarse pork hash, with tender meat, fatty rind and rosemary roast potatoes laced with squidgy black pudding, baked apple and a raw egg yolk for mixing, Swedish style.
There are unexpected Korean influences, too, such as an exceptional take on the raw beef dish yukhoe, here using crunchy (rather than ripe) pear, plenty of sesame and a hit of chilli. Finally, because pig is the star, there was bacon panna cotta pud: a milky, smoky base under a sweet maple reduction and sprinkling of crispy bacon. We preferred the simplicity of our battered ‘banana dog’, but the chef still gets points for innovation.
In this semi-industrial space, the music is loud, dark and dirty, the crowd trendy but friendly. The only sting in the tail was our stroppy waitress, who left plates uncleared and huffed whenever we asked for anything. But why let one rotten apple spoil the whole cart – embrace your inner Statesider: if you don’t like your server, dock their tip.
John Salt 131 Upper Street
- Venue phone:
020 7704 8955
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Meals served noon-midnight Mon-Thur; noon-2am Fri, Sat; 11am-midnight Sun.
Tube: Highbury & Islington tube/rail
Main courses £10-£17. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £65.
- 131 Upper Street
- 020 7704 8955
- 131 Upper Street
- John Salt