I had a bit of a challenge last week. My parents were visiting from Australia and I was desperate to show them exactly why I’d moved to this fine city. Naturally I decided the best way to do this was to take them to one of Islington’s most eclectically charming and downright scrumptious gastro pubs – The Elk in the Woods. To be honest, food had been a big factor in my original English relocation.
Having started its life as a bar The Elk in the Woods has emerged as a Camden Passage treasure. It’s filled with miss-matched tables – ours had a hidden draw of envelopes and writing paper, wooden floors, wallpaper you wish was decorating your own home, lampshades that create an atmospheric glow, animal skulls (a more artistic touch than it sounds), and staff who cheerfully guide you through your evening food selection.
Beginning with salt and pepper calamari, deep fried with roast chilli and palm sugar sauce (that was absolutely Sydney quality) and halloumi with homemade preserved lemons (which actually tasted like the Greek Islands) we moved onto mains of wild mushroom stroganoff with smoked paprika, lentil mash and pan-friend ruby chard (culinary bliss) and a board of pea guacamole, beetroot and carrot houmous, char-grilled corn, feta and roasted garlic with vine tomatoes (I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw so much colour on one oversized plate). There were plenty of meaty main options too – char-grilled rib-eye and watercress and horseradish butter, roast duck and guinea fowl – but we felt vegetarian mains would leave more room for the spice and chocolate infused desserts.
No doubt a true sommelier would scoff at our actions but we paired all this with delectable ‘Suck em up’ lemon sherbert and rhubarb and custard cocktails; they just seemed too good not to try! For those with a more mature palate there is a lengthy list of wines, beers and other member of the beverage family.
Everything that arrived at our table was fresh, delicious, beautifully prepared and inevitably photographed (I am part of the hipster generation after all). Servings were quite large and had a slight rustic feel, which absolutely suited the relaxed, Wednesday night atmosphere.
The Elk in the Woods also serves up quirky breakfast and mouth-watering sandwiches during the day but I would recommend booking ahead – locals and visitors are very much onto this place and simply walking in isn’t always an option. I assure you though it’s worth a visit. After all, it’s almost completely responsible for my parent’s newfound London love.
What: The Elk in the Woods
Where: 37-39 Camden Passage, N1 8EA
Transport: Angel Station
Contact: 020 7226 3535
This article originally appeared on City Road Online.