Where to begin? Well, in the beginning, there was Stephen Fry, or so his omniscient narration implies. ‘I want to restore your faith in human nature,’ he says, portentously, of a series which aims to depict human nature at its best, counterbalancing those nasty tabloid headlines about the rise of racism, crime, self-interest and so on.
Will the citizens of London or Manchester stand up to a cartoonishly racist waiter? Will the denizens of Brighton try to steal an untended bike? Will anyone pilfer a sack of £30,000 left in a phone booth? Hidden cameras allow us to find out, but the situations tell us no more about the human race than the aforementioned headlines. Motivations are rarely probed; instead, Fry – at his most pompous and self-satisfied, congratulates or chastises us according to the behaviour on display. Yes, that’s Stephen Fry, who did time for credit card fraud.
But it’s not all down to him. His representative on earth, Rick Edwards, challenges those diners who keep schtum in the face of prejudice. ‘It’s like “The Silence of the Lambs”,’ Edwards comments, dimwittedly. Well, only in the sense that we’d rather eat a census taker’s liver than watch this pernicious, patronising nonsense again.
Opening a new Modern European restaurant in N1 takes guts; it must be the only London postcode where it’s easier to get a side of samphire than a bucket of fried chicken. But within weeks of opening, Salut! is already booked up at weekends: Islington already loves it as much as we do. Brothers Martin and Christoph Lange grew up in Germany, both attending catering college aged 16. After Christoph went on to work at highly regarded kitchens all over Europe (including Norway’s Maaemo and Denmark’s Noma), they’ve now opened Salut! with Martin’s girlfriend. A thoroughly modern family business. Every last detail at Salut! gets the Langes’ personal attention – answering the phones, wiping plate edges, checking you enjoyed your meal. The latter must be their favourite bit, because I really, really enjoyed the meal. Never have I known a menu to undersell its dishes with such modesty. King crab and watercress came with unexpected crab roe foam and micro herb pesto; the ‘selection of onions’ with a juicy pork belly was actually three colourful piles of alliums that were in turn pickled, caramelised and charred to perfection. Anywhere else, I’d frown on such haute cuisine-y touches, but here every last blob and flourish is an improvement on what you ordered. And, thanks to the open kitchen, you can watch Christoph studiously work his magic. The attention to detail does slow things down rather – with only the brothers on duty, we waited a stomach-rumblingly long time to order. I hear t
Venue says: “Spring is coming, and with it new dishes on our menu.”