Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review: The Castle, Islington, London

We descended en masse to trendy Islington in search of a venue for the congregation of my motley university crew. A mere five minute walk from Angel Station and about an easy ten or so minute stroll from King's Cross and St Pancras railway stations, The Castle won on location and my friends previous positive experiences.

A modern take on the traditional English watering hole, The Castle has seating for about sixty and a short, simple menu featuring the classics. They had a great selection of beers from around the world (not to mention Adnams on tap) and a nice wine list, many of which can be enjoyed by the glass. Service was prompt and welcoming when we arrived. Our table had been laid out downstairs but the Spring sunshine was calling us so we asked to move upstairs to their sun-drenched rooftop terrace and they kindly obliged without a grumble.

Having perused the food on offer which included bangers and mash and steak and chips, we placed an order with the friendly manager. Given that we were a party of seven, we were impressed that our meals came out together though the weekend lunch rush wasn't yet fully under way. We were able to set up a tab for our table by swapping a bank card for a business card bearing the Geronimo chain's trademark pig which read "If you wake up with this in your wallet then you've had a fantastic night and your credit card is still behind the bar". Brilliant!

The world was put to rights over a luxuriously leisurely lunch. One of my party tried the establishment's Elvis Burger (above); beetroot, fried egg, a rasher of bacon, onion ring, tons of salad and - not forgetting - a patty of Angus beef served in a crisp bun with a side of skin-on seasoned chips. It's described as a "heart attack in a bun" for a reason! For those with a less elephantine appetite, their run of the mill Angus burger, with or without the optional rasher of bacon, was popular with our party - meaty and smothered with mature cheese. Another of my friends enjoyed their broccoli and Stilton soup, the flavour of the day, which was smooth and flavourful.

I enjoyed a succulent onion and roast garlic tart on a flakey puff pastry crust topped with goats cheese and a poached ducks egg. The combination of sweet onions, silky yolk, crunchy pastry and sharp crumbly chévre was a delight. The bed of rocket, tomato and cucumber dressed in a wholegrain mustard vinegrette made it a light yet satisfying meal. Unfortunately, the poached egg wasn't quite as well done as I would've liked - the white still clear and gloopy in places - though the yolk was a triumph so alls well that ends well.

We finished things off by sharing a few servings of sticky toffee pudding, which as a bit of a let down. It was more like toffee cake drizzled with a little toffee sauce rather than a steamed pudding drenched in rich caramel goodness. It just didn't quite hit the spot, which was a shame after an otherwise lovely meal.

Overall, The Castle - either inside at the bar or outside on the rooftop - is an ideal venue for a chilled out informal lunch or drinks. Grab a pint or glass of your favourite tipple and take your pick from their pleasingly succinct menu but don't bother with dessert.

The Castle can be found at 54 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9HF. Tel: 020 7713 1858 Main meals: £8 - £14. Puddings: £5 - £7. Nearest Tube: Angel
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