Friday night and I needed somewhere good to eat. I’d just been subjected to the ultimate Vegan recruitment pincer movement – the wife and the friend with a better body than me. I didn’t see it coming. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but even the Spanish Inquisition don’t expect the Vegan Recruitment.
The following morning I’d say goodbye to animal products, but, I beg you, composure. There’s no need to dash to the nearest rib shack or pound down pints of ice cream. A farewell should be done well and my good friend Ron knew just the place.
Korova is a family run restaurant a couple of minutes walk from Tufnell Park Tube Station. It’s got a distinguished brasserie type feel to it, big windows, high tiled walls, low hanging ceiling lamps and decor immaculately clean. It’s understated, tasteful and bold.
The restaurant had a nice vibe when we walked in – a few large family-looking groups scattered and a few besotted couples occupying the tables by the gigantic front windows. It’s romantic but not cringeworthy soppy. A soft bit of music in the background helps keep an upbeat tempo for anyone not on a date and it’s the type of place you can relax and just enjoy ordering. We get welcomed the moment we walk in and the service is excellent, recommending drinks and selecting a good table.
The menu is modern European and reads really well. Deciding your final non-Vegan dishes is no easy task. For all intense and purposes, I’d probably just take a good steak and chips to keep things simple. But throw in some curve balls like Duck Confit and Ossobuco with risotto and things get more complicated. I’ll be posh and go Ossobuco – it just feels like the right option to be classy. Not easy when it’s up against a T-Bone and Tripled Cooked Chips, but the choice on offer feels so proud that it’d be wrong not to give the chef a little bit more work. I couldn’t choose between two starters, so I went for them both, wild garlic soup with truffle oil and a seared scallops with red pepper and, curiously, kiwi.
The Wild Garlic Soup with Truffle Oil was delicate and delicious. Not overpowering nor stringy. There was a slight salty burst from the truffle oil that blended magnificently with the wild garlic. I guess this is pretty Vegan, or at least it could be, maybe the switch wont be too bad.
Scallops, however, are not Vegan and if my last ones are to be from Korova then I’m happy. Nicely seared with a little glaze creeping over the top and presented with two different accompanying sauces – one red pepper and the other kiwi. The latter is not the typical ingredient that comes to mind when you’re pairing with a scallop, which is why I’m so chuffed it works well. Being unconventional on your flavour pairings isn’t something new or difficult, just look at any Hipster area and it’s wonderful array of wacko combinations. However, this wasn’t a random choice and it paid off.
Ossobucco with a saffron risotto. Now, before I go further, I feel that it’s important to know that Korovo is one of those great restaurants thriving from a dedicated Mr & Mrs team. While the Mr bangs out terrific dishes from the basement kitchen, the Mrs is upstairs overseeing the entire floor and bar effortlessly. Given that the owner is the chef and he’s pretty much been self-taught, the quality of his food is incredible. And that’s not a tip of the hat to an amateur trying hard, that’s a total acknowledgement of the hours of work put into building upon a natural talent.
The saffron risotto was creamy, drenched in flavour and had the bite that lets you know the timing’s on schedule in the kitchen. The ossobuco was cooked sous-vide – it fell apart and took on all the power of the risotto flavour. No regrets on the main course option, although Ron’s Garlic & Herb Poussin, French Fries & Aoili looked spot on.
Dessert was apple and rhubarb crumble, a notable favourite for us both. The fruity tang wasn’t too acidic and the crumble didn’t break your teeth. It was rich, warm and I could easily have attempted another. Finishing dessert and rocking back in my chair, sipping on a Korova Martini, I can see why the tables are taken up in the restaurant. It all feels so effortless and yet you know there’s been a lot of sleepless nights putting the whole ensemble together.
The family running the restaurant have young children, yet the Mr and Mrs don’t take the foot of the pedal, piling in the extra hours and graft to produce a quality restaurant. It’s a great example of how the crucial ingredient in a restaurant is the team behind it. Faultless and friendly. I’ll go back to campaign for Vegan options to make sure it stays a place I can visit regularly.