Thanks, Time Out Love London Awards! You alerted us to a new restaurant in Tufnell Park that we probably wouldn’t have heard of.
Fans of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ will recognise the name: the Korova Milk Bar served milk mixed with mind-bending drugs. Don’t worry, there’s nothing sinister going on in TP. The name (Russian for ‘cow’) is more a reference to the venue’s origins: Tufnell Park formerly supplied a lot of London’s milk, and this place was once a dairy.
More recently, it has been a graveyard for a café-deli and a bakery. Now Steve Wilmot (owner of the Zensai bar in Camden Town) and his wife Sital have bet they can do better with a café that turns into a cocktail bar and restaurant by night.
It was brunch that got good comments online. We went for dinner, however, and it was really memorable. There’s a tiny menu, just four choices at each stage. Shallot soup had silky texture and deep flavour. A special of seared foie gras, with lozenges of baked apple, was perfectly executed. Beautifully cooked ribeye came with a lush gratin dauphinoise; tender braised lamb shank with creamy-textured butter beans. Chocolate mousse was nicely bittersweet.
No main course costs over £15, but the bill will swell if you fall for cocktails and the wine list. Do yourself a favour: fall. Especially for their negroni and the Vesper martini; as 007 would have said, ‘Same again, bartender.’
There’s something very retro about Korova. The decor combines original tiling with new features such as an art-deco-style cocktail bar. The soundtrack was the very best of the 1960s. Our steak had a green peppercorn sauce based on a heavy reduction of stock – haven’t seen one of those for a loooong time. If ‘Come Dine with Me’ had been on telly between 1965 and 1985, that chocolate mousse would have played a recurring role.
This area has long had just the Tufnell Park Tavern serving serious food, so Korova is well placed. The quality we saw suggested it can succeed where others have failed. It needs to raise its lunchtime game, whatever online comments say, particularly in the making of omelettes (meagre and dry). Dinner? Any time, thanks. But hold the drug-infused milk.