We’ve already talked about how my aunt’s only comment so far about this blog has been that we appear always hungover while eating out on Kingsland Road. So this review is another in her honour. Because when we went to The Kingsland Pantry’s pop-up at Death by Burrito, we weren’t hungover at all. No, we were still mightily drunk from the night before.
We’d been to our friend Matt’s birthday party and somehow managed to not come home until 6 in the morning. Waking only a couple of hours later, I experienced that strange feeling you get after a particularly heavy night; you snap suddenly awake, remember how much you drank the night before and idly think it’s a little strange you don’t seem to have any sort of hangover. It’s only some minutes later, usually when you start to rise, that the crushing realisation hits you that you aren’t hungover because you’re actually still very much drunk and the joys of the hangover are just around the corner.
Luckily, on this particularly Sunday, we were soothed by a fine lunch from the chaps behind The Rebel Dining Society, who took a break from making excellent burritos to show off some of their more classical cooking under the Kingsland Pantry moniker.
Before the food though, it has to be said that while the Catch venue works perfectly for their grungy burrito dive bar, it is rather less effective as a home for a refined Sunday lunch. It’s all a bit dark and dank, and the waiting staff, while charming, seem like they would be much more at home slinging frozen cocktails and great burritos around than they were carrying large pieces of slate and remembering all the ingredients to each dish.
No matter, the food was universally delightful, right from the opening salvo of Chicken Parfait, Toasted Brioche & Pomegranate Jam, which arrived on the largest piece of slate I’ve ever seen employed to convey food. It could have been used to roof a Norman abbey. The squares of food were rather dwarfed by the hunk of stone but tasted lovely – the parfait punchy and rich, with the pomegranate cutting across the fattiness.
The next course was always going to be a hit with Nat. Like Gregg Wallace with anything sweet and sticky, she’s a sucker for fish, beetroot and anything pickled. So the Beetroot Soused Mackerel, Orange Rhubarb & Kohlrabi Horseradish that arrived at our tabled was a surefire winner before we’d even tasted it. Even if it hadn’t ticked all her food love boxes, it would have still been a lovely dish. The fish was firm and its oily character was mollified by the sweet/sour beetroot cure it had been given. It was slightly unfortunate that the cure made the fillets rather resemble the tongues of unpleasant sea monsters, but the bits of rhubarb, radish, leaves and jellies round the plate did just enough to detract from the nasty image.
Some trends in food need to die immediately, and two of them were unfortunately on display on the main course of Confit Pork Belly, Quince & Sage Cassoulet, Crackling & Scorched Pear.
First up was a deeply unpleasant black smear painted onto the bottom of the plate. It tasted of nothing and made the whole dish look rather like it had been the victim of a nasty car accident. The other faux pas was one of language rather than execution or cookery skill. I just don’t understand why people have suddenly decided that the word “caramelised” is now verboten. At Roganic everything is now “burnt”, and here the pear had been “scorched”. Neither are appetising words, and the food always looks exactly the same as something that would have been caramelised a couple of years ago.
Still, the overall dish itself was goodish – in a slightly-better-than-your-local-pub kind of way. Pork belly is something that it’s hard to get all that excited about. It’s usually nice. But rarely mind blowing. You know what you’re going to get with it. It’s basically the sort of dish people order when they are a bit scared by everything else on a menu. Here, the meat was suitably melting and the cracking appropriately crunchy. But looking back, I’m not sure I could distinguish it from any other piece of pork belly I’ve had at a pub over the last five years.
In a pause before the main pudding event, an Elderflower, Pink Peppercorn & Ginger Beer Float arrived at the table. It was the perfect foil to the rich meat that preceded it and the gooey pudding that was to come. Tart, refreshing and refined, it was the sort of thing you’d hope posh bars would serve to people who didn’t drink booze.
There was nothing refined about the final course; a big slab of Sticky Toffee Pudding that would have had Gregg Wallace slavering and slowly removing his spoon from his mouth all day. It’s not the sort of desert I’d ever choose, but in the circumstance it went down OK. Certainly by the time I’d finished it, my hangover had been and gone and I felt like a lovely sweet duvet had hugged me.
All in all, Sunday lunch at the Kingsland Pantry was a strange beast. Three of the five courses were the sorts of things you’d get a fancy restaurant. The other two were stuff you’d find down your local pub and be damned happy with. Then again, considering all five courses cost just £25 and a roast at a pub off the Kingsland Road can easily be £17.50, it’s hard to complain about what the boys at Death by Burrito are doing with their Sundays off.