Please note, Magpie no longer runs a trolley service. Time Out Food editors, January 2018.
It’s the trolley. Plenty of the food at Magpie is great (more on this later), but that’s not the reason to love it. It’s all about the trolley. It trundles over with one, two or three dishes on board. Each is proffered for an up-close inspection, then lovingly, seductively described. You say yay/nay; a mark is scribbled on a chit. It’s like eating in Hong Kong’s dim sum trolley restaurants, only more civilised. At no point will a tiny lady shriek ‘You want this? Yes? Yes?’ at you while you nod submissively, wondering if you’ve just agreed to the chicken’s feet.
Instead, servers will gently remind you that around 14 small plates will be making the rounds (there are also three large plates ‘to order’) and you couldn’t possibly sample them all. They’re right. Trust me, I tried. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have horrible angsty moments of choosing something, then worrying you might have committed too soon. What if something better comes along later and you’re already too full? It’s food FOMO, basically.
So pace yourself. And talk to the staff – all lovely – to gather tips and recommendations. You could even ask your fellow diners for help: much like my first visit to Pidgin, its Hackney sibling, this was a friendly crowd, with plenty of ‘oh, you should definitely get that one’ going on.
Because, here’s the thing: while the food is all decent, some dishes are definitely stronger than others. Stick with the meat and fish (veggie options were pretty, but forgettable). There’s a playful twist on a ‘coq au vin’, made with fried chicken – gotta love a bit of fried chicken – on a base of lardon mayo and pickled onions (pickled in red wine, obvs).
Even better was their take on prawn toast: more of a mutant battered dumpling with a juicy shellfish middle. It came in a bowl, sat on top of what looked suspiciously like hair gel with sparkles in it. Oh wait, not sparkles. Actually tiny flecks of raw jalapeño. That ‘gel’ is a clear, sweet ketchup, with just a hint of heat. It works.
But the rockstar of the trolley was the beef tartare. Gleamingly fresh meat, a mix of microscopic cornichons and shallots, melted taleggio, truffle crisps and the hit of French’s mustard (plus a dollop of egg yolk emulsion to one side). You know what it tastes like? An incredibly posh, to-die-for Big Mac.
All this happens in a big, buzzy room that’s more Shoreditch than Mayfair, with scuffed-up floors and a counter at the open kitchen. The alfresco seating – on pedestrian-only Heddon Street – looked inviting, but was on my visit only serving drinks. Sod that. You’ve come here for your own personal Mr Creosote moment, saying yes to dish after dish until you pop, but hopefully without telling anyone to fuck off at the end.
10 Heddon Street
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus|
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £85|
|Do you own this business?|