105 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 106 Upper Street, London N1 1QN www.galleylondon.co.uk
Nick finds Upper Street is now less about New Labour and more about fishy business. So perhaps no change at all?
Upper Street Islington, forever famous as the place where archetypal champagne swilling, Guardian-reading socialists Tony Blair and Gordon Brown thrashed out their power sharing deal in an agreeably expensive restaurant.
An odd street, so much wealth and poverty side by side united only by a shared desire to vote Labour at election time. And so many places to eat, from deep fried rat in the Chicken Shops to food a great deal fancier just a few doors down. For whatever their individual circumstances, the locals here must all love to eat out.
Galley is new, I have no idea what was here before but I imagine it was another restaurant. Deep and narrow it has a small bar at the front and at back an open kitchen sideways facing to the main dining area. You can sit at the pass if you want, and I did want but was overruled.
We sat at the tables – rather too close together I suspect when the place gets full. Restaurants for grownups need a bit of space between couples. The banquettes looked a cosy option though.
As to be expected from a name like Galley, the kitchen is helmed by salty seadogs all stumping about on wooden legs. Well of course it isn’t, but the emphasis very firmly on fish from Chef Marcel Grzyb.
I had the Octopus and Chorizo a la plancha, white bean purÃƒÂ©e, smoked garlic pesto and it was very good in almost every way, the octopus soft, butter-soft in fact and set off perfectly by hunks of moist toothsome chorizo, and not the more usual hard little cubes of viciously paprika’d meat, plus a scattering of toasty pine nuts. The white bean puree and garlic all made a very good combo. One complaint though; it wasn’t quite hot enough. Lukewarm in fact and that spoilt it slightly.
C had the scallops, served two in a shell in a nod to the 1970s and enrobed (as some menus still like to say) in a warm earthy orange puree of carrots and cardamom. She found the scallops perfectly cooked but a bit stingy in quantity; she wanted three, she said with a hint of petulance.
Brixham John Dory spinach, Romanesco, cauliflower purÃƒÂ©e, saffron and mussel sauce was missing, the waitress told me apologetically, the John Dory, would halibut do instead? Of course.
I was disappointed when it arrived naked, no crispy golden skin. One of the reasons I eat fish out and not at home is that I love a crispy skin and it’s hard to achieve with a domestic frying pan. That aside the fish was just right on the cooking, firm with a hint of translucence and flaking in shiny chunks. The spinach was hiding coyly under the fish and the brassicas contrasting well with the Romanesco slightly overcooked. The mussel sauce was rich with saffron and the mussels themselves saucily plump.
Lobster Pappardelle with heritage tomatoes, Jerusalem artichoke was like all seafood pasta dishes in my opinion, less about the fish itself than the flavour it brings to the pasta. It’s important to get the sauce onto the pasta quickly while the pasta is still a moment from being cooked so that the pasta gets to absorb a small amount.
This seemed to be perfect, C liking it a lot and cheerfully pulling out the meat from the lobster portion placed on top. A rich dish, redolent of the Italian seaside.
Desserts were perhaps not all that stand out while still being fine, I admit I don’t really like desserts much anyway not having a sweet tooth, so my salted caramel tart, green tea ice cream, chilli and hazelnut praline could have done with more salt and more chili.
I enjoyed Galley; relaxed dining with generally firm and well-focussed cooking from a kitchen visibly (literally) relaxed and at ease with itself. I can’t imagine Corbyn ever doing power-sharing deals anywhere but in a wholemeal cafe, but couples looking to strike up a working relationship or maintain one will like it here a lot.