Tag Archives: Finsbury Park

Season Kitchen

8 Feb

Just over a year ago I was walking back home from Finsbury Park station when I got the sudden craving for some chicken from Nando’s. I love Nando’s. Sometimes I literally cannot get enough of it. So with a quarter chicken (medium heat) and peri chips in mind, I changed my normal route home and walked along Stroud Green Road towards the glowing light of Nando’s welcoming sign. I peered into shop windows in order to check out my reflection, as I am sure at least 75% of you lot do, when I noticed a new shop interior. No longer a place selling shampoo, hair extensions and nail varnish, this shop was now a restaurant and a rather hip and cool one at that. So cool I couldn’t quite make out the name of the restaurant as it was painted in gloss black over a matt black background and it was also night-time, thus very dark. ‘Se-a-son’ I read out slowly as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light. That suggested seasonal produce to me and with a quick glance at the menu my suspicions were confirmed. I got out my phone and called my good friend Frances who handily only lived around the corner: ‘So like, there’s this new restaurant on Stroud Green Road and it like looks nice and cool and stuff’ and moments later I had stepped inside to nab us a table, my original trip to Nando’s all but forgotten.

We had three courses of hearty and very good food and I felt proud to inform anyone I could that a restaurant of such high-caliber could be found just round the corner from me. And then when Giles Coren said it was brilliant I was proud to point everyone to that review. So I am surprised that it has not been picked up by other critics as the new hot thing, and I am equally surprised at myself that it took a whole year for me to return. It was Frances who suggested another visit and it didn’t take much prodding for me to agree.

Season does feel a bit like a shop inside. It is a square room with the kitchen at the back, much like the layout of many of the shops along the road with the goods out front and the till at the end. Our table was the very same I sat at on our first visit which I thought must be a good omen. Another good omen was the gorgeous soda bread immediately placed on our table once we had sat down. It is so treacley and oaty I’d be happy just eating that with butter for dinner. But that is not why I was there and thankfully the menu was very reassuring. We ordered a bottle of wine, and just like the last visit I found myself incapable of politely asking for ‘the house red’, instead barking out ‘YOU KNOW, THE CHEAPEST RED ONE’ which was both uncouth and not very ladylike, but who am I to dismiss a rather quick setting tradition.

I went for Roast Bone Marrow with Parsley, Radish and Toast to start.  I love bone marrow so it was a fairly easy decision, however the last time I ate it when it had not been added to a sauce to make it AWESOME was at Hawksmoor and it was pretty grim – a huge bone filled with marrow that was just a bit too jellyish (everything else is brilliant at Hawksmoor though). So when I ordered the bone marrow at Season I did have worries that maybe St John was the only place that could cook it successfully. The plate arrived and I was pleased to see that the bone was more dainty than huge, which was a very good start. However, one must never judge a book by its cover, beauty is only skin deep, and the proof is in the tasting. With all this in mind I boldly scooped some of the marrow out, briefly admiring the faint wobble as it was transferred from boney cave to toast, and then the ease of spread, melting ever so slightly with the residual warmth from the charred bread. I artfully added a leaf of parsley, a round of radish and a sprinkling of salt as a final embellishment before the inevitable journey towards my mouth. The journey was smooth yet swift as I was hungry, but most importantly the landing was superb. I ate it all very quickly, the last few bites less considered than my first but enjoyed just as much. I love the animal butteriness and slight greasiness of marrow and I will until the day I die. Thankfully my Hawksmoor experience was just a freak accident, not to be a regular occurence.

Frances had Rabbit and Marmalade on toast. I did try a bit but I was too busy enjoying the marrow to remember what it was like. But for what it is worth, Frances confirms it was very nice.

We both went for the same main: Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Black Pudding and Potato Cake.  As I was very hungry I was pleased to see a rather large plate piled high with meat and carbs. Alas, it appears my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and though I managed to finish it (Booyah!) the last third was most definitely what one may call a struggle. The meat was moist and succulent and was bathed in the gamey liquid it was cooked in. However, my highlight of this dish was the circle of black pudding which was rich and had a good smattering of barley throughout which gave it a very pleasant chew. There was a lot of potato, which probably added weight to my struggle, but one can hardly complain as I do like potato and the many guises it comes in.

As you may have gathered, I was full to the brim. I would also like to add that my wallet was a little bare. But there is something about Frances’ presence that makes me go for gold. I like this about her because it generally means that by throwing caution to the wind I tend to have a better time. It also lends an air of decadence to the proceedings, an air I very much like to breathe. This urge that she creates usually manifests itself in us spending £20 on snacks and dodgy sweets with the ingredients cannily printed in a foreign language on the back when we just popped out for a sharing bag of Doritos, but not at Season. At Season, we ordered desserts.

Rice Pudding with Berry Jam for me. For those of you who regularly read my blog, I understand that I may sound like a broken record. I think I am going to create a Rice Pudding Scale as a quick and simple way of understanding where each pudding stands in the grand scheme of riz au lait. Though all rice pudding is good and will vary in taste wherever you may happen upon it, I do struggle in describing it in a new and fascinating way each time. This rice pudding tasted of rice pudding and I gobbled it down quick. The berry jam was nicely sharp, cutting through the sweetness of the rice perfectly. Frances had Poached Pear with Brown Bread Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Hazelnuts. It is the dessert I would have ordered if I were a more interesting person.

Nursing my food baby, I gladly emptied my purse for Season’s troubles. I still find it so exciting having the opportunity of being so well fed just around the corner from my house, and though you may have guessed, I am not just talking about Nando’s. I’ll be moving south of the river soon so I am disappointed that Season will no longer be local, but I will follow its inevitable success like an obsessive ex-girlfriend.

 

Season Kitchen & Dining Room
53 Stroud Green Road
London N4 3EF
seasonkitchen.co.uk/

New Years Day

24 Feb

My natural alarm clock woke me up at a fairly reasonable hour in the morning. However, due to the noisy party next door to us preventing me from getting to sleep the night before, that fairly reasonable hour in the morning did mean that I had to rush to get ready for breakfast before we would be forced to check out of the York and Albany. Good thing I was so looking forward to my first meal of 2011 – the benchmark to the success of the rest of my year.

Scraping my greasy hair into a ponytail I trotted downstairs into the trendy bar area and took a seat to face the window in order to view 2011 in all it’s glory and also do a bit of people watching. As the breakfast was included in our dinner and hotel deal, I was tempted to order the most expensive dish just to get my money’s worth. In the end I went for Eggs Benedict as with my strong belief (superstition) that your year will carry on based on how it began would surely mean that I would spend 2011 being sophisticated and lapping up hollandaise sauce. I encouraged Mark to order some french toast because I also wanted to start the year with a bit of that.

I was distracted while I was waiting for my breakfast by the girl sitting next to us who I took an instant disliking to. Quite the opposite to me, dressed expensively in casual glamour, she took odd nibbles out of her bowl of muesli in between bursts of furious texting on her blackberry. I couldn’t help but think of how her poor choice of breakfast would end up being an entirely unfulfilling year for her. However, I refused to let this bother me, and with an ‘ahem’ and a holier-than-thou smile I gently gestured towards my plate of eggs with my cutlery and promptly dived in.

Eating utensils hovering above my plate, I waited for the customary flood of sunny yolk to spill out of my eggs a la Roast, yet I appeared to be stuck waiting. It probably took me half a minute to realise that there was going to be no food theatrics and my first bite confirmed an overcooked poached egg. My second bite included some ham that, call me pedantic, tasted just a bit too hammy of the supermarket basics variety. I am fussy with pork in general and can never exactly pin down exactly which piggy products I do not enjoy, but hammy ham is definitely one of them. I wish I could say that the hollandaise managed to wipe out the flavour, but it had no kick to it at all, and the creaminess meant that the whole dish was too rich and bland. I could feel the smug glare of the girl next to me as she registered my disappointment, yet she could not see through my soul at my full despair I was feeling inside as I tried to come to terms with the fact that 2011 would surely end in misfortune for me. Mark’s french toast was sweet and sumptuous, though he struggled to finish it. At least his year will be filled with joy.

Luckily, I didn’t have to feel too sorry about not getting my money’s worth as Mark’s complaint about the noise the night before meant that they knocked 25% off our total bill when we went to check out.

A couple of hours later we ventured towards Finsbury Park in order to meet my good friend Frances for a spot of lunch. We had grand ideas of eating some aubergine bread in a local pub that she had tasted and fallen in love with a few weeks prior, but along with everything else on Stroud Green Road it appeared to be shut. Our only choice was Pizza Pappagone. My two previous experiences there ended in me being booed for not biting the top off a banana positioned suggestively between two profiteroles, and another embarrassing disaster of a combination of two bottles of cava and a spinachy pizza mess both consumed within 20 minutes. Pizza Pappagone’s only saving grace was that it was open and according to a friend it is okay if you order pasta.

As soon as we entered we were engulfed by the noise of many screaming children. They probably weren’t screaming, but if you have so many children in one place at the same time, the noise that spouts forth always seems to be one to make my skin crawl. We accepted a table anyway and perused the menu. I wasn’t particularly wowed over by anything, so I half-heartedly ordered some sort of veal and cream sauce tagliatelli affair. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. I suppose I was just preparing myself for the year of disappointment I was destined for after my depressing breakfast experience.

It tasted of absolutely nothing. Just a selection of textures in a bowl. No seasoning at all and even with a vigorous shake of the salt dispenser it remained a selection of textures that were just slightly salty. Frances had the winning dish which tasted vaguely of tomatoes, but Mark’s tasted of nothing much as well. I could have cried right there and then.

After contemplating whether to leave a tip or not (we did, it wasn’t the fault of the waiters) we left, knocking children aside as we lunged for the exit. Waving a mournful goodbye at Frances, Mark and I headed off back to his. I was in a sombre mood during the car journey, watching flecks of drizzle hit the windows. Mark acknowledged that though my year had not started off in the brilliant way I had expected it to, we did have a jolly walk through Primrose Hill and Camden and it is always nice seeing Frances… so maybe, just maybe, 2011 won’t be as awful as I expect it to be. I took in what he said and nodded my head. For in the face of disappointment I will keep my head held high and take joy from anything else in my life. And there is always next year to look forward to.

Pizza Pappagone
131 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 3PX