Having your humanity chipped away is a pact you enter into when you move to London: the soulless anonymity; the mind-numbing commutes; the way the weather can turn on a dime; the undercurrent of insignificance that privately forces a tear each night. They’re all relatable characters in the depressing movie of a Londoner’s life.
Some people pack their bags and run home to mummy. Others (like me) are from too small-minded and backward a part of the country to even consider that an option.
To fend off the impending breakdown, you make friends where you can – which isn’t easy when you’re a misanthropic loner. When people become too excruciating, there’s a diverse restaurant scene to bite down on – on which I’m reliant – but even then you have to wade through a system of buses and tubes and escalators and ‘touching-in’ and out. Sometimes you need something a little more immediate; a little closer to home.
That’s what neighbourhood restaurants are for, and there’s a new one that’s just opened up in Islington called Assiette Anglaise. Situated deep along Liverpool Road which runs parallel to Upper St. it’s ever so slightly out of the way, which means it needs to do itself a favour and let people know it’s actually there.
The kitchen is headed by Elton Inglis who comes from a good lineage having worked at Petrus, Racine and Murano. The restaurant considers itself a French brasserie with dishes like steak tartare and poached lobster available in the evening. They offer breakfast from 8am-11am including brioche French toast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or truffle oil, Toulouse sausage & butter bean stew with a fried duck egg, and homemade granola.
I walked in at lunchtime, to an empty restaurant and the staff huddled around the central hub: a glossy marble-effect granite bar. Just as nibbling pigeons scatter when you get too close, the staff were in momentary disarray as a seemingly unexpected customer walked in the door, as if they weren’t used to having any.
Assiette Anglaise £12
With everyone now manning their station, you realise that this is a friendly bunch with a good attitude, which goes some way as to forgiving any minor deficiencies. The front of house was chatty and enthusiastic and even gifted me a glass of their biodynamic wines to pair with my food selection, which was for the lunch prix fixe (£12 for 2 courses, £15 for 3 courses) and the signature all day dish: a cold meat platter including Noir de Bigorre which is the most ancient breed of pig known in France, homemade terrines, baby carrots and bagna cauda (an Italian hot dip).
First up in my set lunch was an animalistic salade paysanne with underlying chicken livers – some cooked better than others – flavoursome lardons, and croutons which had a softness in their crunch.
Chicken ballotine, Scottish girolles & spinach
The kitchen reassuringly seems to know how to cook, as showcased by a ballotine of chicken and trompette mushrooms in a spattering of rich chicken jus which ticked all the right boxes. The Scottish girolles were earthy and had the right amount bite. Accompanying mash was very smooth and buttery.
Chocolate & raspberry cake
They finished strong with a fine chocolate & raspberry cake with the moistness and richness to provide a temporary emotional shield against my suppressed unhappiness: the power of food. Maybe it’s why many of us base our lives around it. I’m rational so don’t have a religion as a crutch to lean on or give me ‘hope’ whatever that actually means. I rely on periodic bursts of alterations to my chemical makeup brought about by eating.
Er, well anyway, there you have it. Assiette Anglaise is a welcome addition to Islington’s slew of neighbourhood restaurants and it’s very easy on your wallet too. Even though it’s not going to be a dot that beeps on anyone’s culinary radar, it’s a nice little place for locals to have within arm’s reach.
food : 7/10
service : 7/10
ambience : 5.5/10
value : 8/10
489 Liverpool Road, Islington, London N7 8NS
020 7609 0300