Do you go to church? The Parakeet in Kentish Town wants you to. Stepping inside this new pub-slash-restaurant, you’re met with a hallowed sight of stained glass windows, saintly portraits and the heavenly smell of meat and fish being cooked over an open fire. Here the kitchen is the altar, and the guests, on dark wooden pew-like seating, wait eagerly for their communion.
I don’t mean to be hyperbolic; visiting the Parakeet wasn’t quite a religious experience, but it was pretty close. Billing itself as a gastropub (it’s was formerly 1860s freehouse The Oxford Tavern), ostensibly, the Parakeet is still a ‘pub’ and there is a separate space just for drinking, but chic interiors and a sophisticated cocktail offering suggest more of a restaurant inside a pub’s casing. There are no sticky beer mats or packets of Scampi Fries here.
I wouldn’t be surprised if The Parakeet becomes one of London’s foodie big hitters.
On a Thursday night in May, the place was packed. The host was turning away disappointed guests from the dining room, and instead ushering them to the (equally vibey) bar. There’s a reason why this new joint is so popular: in the kitchen are Brat alumni Ben Allen as head chef and sous chef Ed Jennings. Similar to Brat, Allen and Jennings’ food sits in the wheelhouse of modern British and European-inspired sharing plates. If you’re suffering from small plate fatigue, don’t be discouraged, because The Parakeet didn’t come to play. The eats here shouldn't be taken lightly – this is rich, interesting food, elegantly presented.
To start, we slurped down some beautifully fresh oysters with fermented kohlrabi. Unreal. Then braised leeks and mushrooms with a gut-punchingly good pecorino sauce (salty, but that’s what pecorino does best) were followed by a perfectly-balanced pollock crudo, flecked with a surprisingly welcome addition of diced broad beans.
Brat love to plonk an enormous fish on your table, and the Parakeet also offers sizable sharing plates. Many of our neighbours opted for a massive sea bream or hunk of ox cheek. As a table of two we wanted variety, so went for trout with sea herbs and the most glorious butter sauce. A real winner.
There were a couple of incongruous moments. We had to wait a good 20 minutes between some of our small plates, which disrupted the flow of picking from different dishes at once. A coil of confit potatoes was a little too greasy and not quite salty enough, while the peperade, although tasty, was acetic and overpowered the delicate, buttery trout.
However, these minor qualms were well forgotten by dessert, for which we salivated over a laminated kouign-amann cake (they get theirs from nearby Kossoffs bakery) cut in half and adorably poking out from a sea of frothy burnt butter custard. I’ve never had a dessert like this – salty, nutty and just sweet enough. Superb.
Being a pub, drinking is unsurprisingly good here too. Our affable waiter recommended a bottle of American Recordings Pinot Noir, a gorgeous chilled red. After dessert, we knocked back a couple of tasty New York sours in the bar before merrily sauntering home.
With beautifully cooked food and great drinks in a cool environment with excellent service, you can’t really go wrong here. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Parakeet becomes one of London’s foodie big hitters.
The vibe A buzzing gastropub masquerading as an edgy chapel.
The food Modern British and European small and big plates packed with flavour.
The drink A good and extensive wine list – your waiter will help you pick the best bottle – and classic cocktails with a twist.
Time Out tip Don’t skip dessert! Try the Kossoffs kouign-amann for something savoury and rich.