The area between Tufnell Park tube and Holloway Road is a long-standing restaurant desert.
The refurbed Tufnell Park Tavern, now owned by the Handmade Pubs group set out to fill the gap when it opened in mid-May with a huge and attractive multi-roomed pub/deli/restaurant.
Word has spread: after a month of trading, the place was packed on a Thursday night. And many of the customers were already regulars – an indication of how nice this place is.
I will join the ranks of ardent fans when the kitchen irons out some pretty deep wrinkles in the cooking. One of our starters, a smoked haddock salad with boiled egg, broad beans, new potatoes, dill and spring onions, was poorly presented and woefully unappetising.
Pea and pea pod soup was good, but the ‘polenta croutons’ served in it were simultaneously leathery and rubbery. Main courses were better. Rabbit stew was good, though presented inelegantly. Rib steak was cooked as ordered, and served on the bone with fried potatoes which had a delicate spicy crust and split-second-perfect cooking within.
The enticing desserts included the best of British and standard continental intruders.
The wine list is compact and notably good, with prices starting at just £14.50, although this seems to be at the expense of the beer offer. As well as a few inoffensive lagers, there are only two ales on tap (Butcombe and Brakspear) and just Budvar or the rather passive Brahma in bottles.
Service was wonderful: smiling, efficient and solicitous. Concentrated management attention could solve the kitchen problems quickly, making this place fully justify the enthusiasm of its potentially enormous customer base.
There’s a deli menu served from morning till early evening, breakfast until noon, and after that a menu of good quality pizzas kicks in for the rest of the day.
Try to go in fine weather, and sit in the unusually spacious back garden, which is paved but decked out with lovely pots of culinary herbs.