Test Driving Ixta Belfrage's pop-up at The Standard, where bold flavours from Italy, Brazil and Mexico all meet

roomLooking into Isla at the Standard, which Ixta Belfrage has taken over. 

So what's happening at The Standard?

Taking over the Isla restaurant (on the ground floor) for a three-month pop-up is Ixta Belfrage. She previously worked with Ottolenghi in his Test Kitchen, co-wrote his bestselling book Flavour and is the author of an award-winning cookbook herself, Mezcla. This pop-up takes the lead from that book, with inspirations taken from Italy, Brazil, Mexico and beyond.

Where is it?

If you're not familiar with The Standard, it's the hotel in the big semi-brutalist building opposite St Pancras. It has a prominent lift on the outside (which services Decimo restaurant upstairs). It's just beside King's Cross station. Isla takes much of the ground-floor space and, when the weather warms up, it has a large covered outside terrace which is definitely worth knowing about. 

Where should we meet for a drink?

There are quite a few options on this side of King's Cross. The bar/pub at The Standard called Double Standard has always been a very handy place to meet in the area. Alternatively, the bar upstairs at Decimo is also a great place for a pre/post-dinner drink (as is the rooftop terrace). Two hotels close by also have excellent bars. Either The Gothic Bar at Midland Grand Dining Room or Hokus Pokus underneath the Megaro are great choices. 

That said - the pop-up by Ixta Belfrage does have its own small selection of special cocktails (all stemming from a team-up with Casamigos Tequila), including a Paloma, a Coconut Old Fashioned and this:

roomOne of the special cocktails on offer: Guava Margarita (Casamigos Blanco, guava, bitters, lime - £16.50)

So what can we expect from the menu here?

Note that the normal Isla menu is being served here too, so you'll specifically want to ask for the special Ixta menu. As mentioned, like her book, this takes inspiration from a broad range of cuisines including food from Brazil, Mexico and Italy. So you'll see everything from tacos to pasta appear on the menu in a mash-up that you're unlikely to have come across anywhere else in London. Thankfully, this mixing up of styles makes for an excellent and exciting menu. Roaming across continents has helped to create something really special. 

Although it's a collection of small and large plates, you can approach this as a standard three-course affair (just make sure to mention that when ordering). It's also a very vegan-friendly menu - all the vegetable dishes below are vegan, as are the plantain fritters, with more choices besides the ones you see here. 

We roamed through a fair chunk of the menu - here's what we had:

roomPlantain crisps, papaya & dendê pimenta (£7) - your starting point, one to order the moment you so you can snack on them while working out what to move on to. We see a lot of great plantain dishes on West African menus in London, and it's good to see its use spreading further too.  

roomCorn pamonha in banana leaf, curried red pepper ragú, cashew chilli oil (£9) - One of the examples of great vegan cooking available at the pop-up, this is based on a traditional Brazilian dish.  

roomMoqueca monkfish slider (£16) - here,  the monkfish is cooked Moqueca style (that's a seafood stew with its origins in the Afro-Brazilian food culture of Bahia), served with cabbage slaw, kewpie mayo on a brioche bun

roomKing prawn lasagne, habanero Oil (£25) - An Ixta Belfrage signature dish,  also available in her cookbook, this is not to be missed. Beautifully balanced in flavour, this is one of the best lasagnes you will ever encounter. 

roomThis is the key part of one of the dishes - the guava roast duck tacos, served with charred spring onions & chipotle crema (£30) - that duck is absolutely phenomenal. 

The above, of course, is just one element of the taco dish. Note that the table can quickly be taken over by the dishes of tortillas and the various extras with which to layer up your taco, so you may find yourselves running out of space.  But then you do end up with the following:

roomOnce you're done, your taco will look something like this. It's great. 

roomSides are also very unique - this is an okra skewer (with some spring onion in there too) served with mango & yellow habanero vinaigrette (£7)

And for dessert?

Definitely save room - both of these were excellent:

roomHoney-roasted cashew ice cream choco-taco (£12.50) - This is the must-have dessert and as it's going to be hard to share, you might want one each of these. Pricey for a dessert, but well worth it. 

roomAnd things finish off where they began with more plantain. These are plantain fritters with warm chocolate caramel sauce (£7)

Overall thoughts

When we first wrote the story about this pop-up, we were immediately struck by how great the menu sounded, so we were keen to try it as early as possible. Our initial instincts were correct because this has been one of our truly great meals of 2024 so far.

Overall, it's an extremely strong offering and based on this, we'll be very interested to see what happens if Ixta finds a permanent space at some time in the future. It's quite unlike anything else out there right now, so we'd strongly recommend catching this pop-up while it's at The Standard for the next three months.


More about Ixta Belfrage at Isla

Where? The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, London WC1H 8EG

When is it running? Until late June 2024

Find out moreVisit their website or follow her on Instagram @ixta.belfrage.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Isla. Prices correct at time of publication. 


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