Every few weeks, I find myself needing to think of a restaurant last-minute for lunch or dinner with a friend. It needs to meet my usual stipulations of great food, not too far from a tube station, and not outrageously expensive and sometimes I need it to be in a specific part of town. Even though I have a loooong, semi-permanent wishlist, something about the pressure of choosing one at short-notice makes my mind go blank. And so I turn to twitter and beg the food-community hive mind for recommendations, quick quick please! They always come through for me, often-cases reminding of me of places that are already on my wishlist.
When I asked for a lunch option for a Saturday lunch in Angel Islington a few weeks ago, I was reminded again (thanks Samphire & Salsify) of Oldroyd, a name which pops up every single time I ask and has been receiving recommendations ever since it opened a few years ago. It’s the brainchild of Tom Oldroyd, formerly the Executive chef for Polpo (and the many younger sibling restaurants that came afterwards) and offers a pared down menu of seasonal cooking in a modern European style, with a pronounced Italian influence.
Walking in without a reservation at 1.30 pm on a bank holiday Saturday I was surprised we were able to get a table downstairs, and the front of house staff immediately earned my gratitude by offering a cushion to soften the hard bench seating.
The menu was short but full of temptations. We ordered a few items from the menu and one from the daily Specials blackboard.
Seaweed and cider saucisson with cornichons (£5.50) were punchy in flavour and perfect to enjoy with a drink while you decide on the rest, though pricy for the portion size.
A simple dish of gnocchi fritti, wild garlic puree and parmesan (£7) worked well for its simplicity; the deep fried gnocchi were soft with a chewy-crisped surface, given freshness by the vivid wild garlic and a hit of salty savouriness from the blanket of finely grated fresh parmesan.
Spinach and ricotta malfatti, peas, broadbeans, berkswell and crispy sage (£13) was more complex, but just as fresh and vibrant. The filling in the malfatti was light and fresh, the sweetness of the peas a delight and the crispy sage gave a welcome crunch against the softness.
The bavette steak, camone tomatoes & aspargus (£17) was marvellous, a beautifully full-flavoured and perfectly cooked piece of beef served with two fat fresh asparagus spears, fresh tomatoes and a lovely pile of very soft goat’s milk curd. Although it was awfully good, I did feel again that this item was a touch on the pricy side – bavette is not a super expensive cut.
Purple sprouting broccoli (£4) was delicious, cooked perfectly with the really excellent flavour that is a hallmark of fresh ingredients.
Lemon tart with gariguette strawberries (£6.50) was a perfect dessert for sharing. A silky silky lemon filling on thin, light pastry, with sharp little strawberries to contrast.
We only had tap water to drink, and our total bill was £59.62 (with service included). With modest drinks you’d be looking at £40 or more per head. That said, both food and service was excellent, and I’d absolutely go back. I love Oldroyd’s approach to seasonal cooking and showing off the ingredients in simple, classic combinations.