Test Driving Nuala: a serious City Road restaurant that delights

breamThat beefsteak tartare with extra stout sauce and dripping chips

So, what do we need to know about Nuala

Well, first you'd better get that name right. It's pronounced 'noo-la' rather than 'noo-ah-la'. it's a place with various Irish influences - right down to that name. 

The restaurant is actually a bit of a reunion for folk that have worked together in various restaurants over the years. Chef Patron Niall Davison was at St John Bread & Wine, Lockhart, and the Chiltern Firehouse. Head Chef Colin McSherry was at the Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston. Front of house is being run by Charlie Sims of Noma and John O’Dowd of Bistrotheque, and Charlie's wife Honey Spencer is the sommelier. Hearing how they all know each other is a bit of a six degrees of separation game, but with fewer steps.

Where exactly is it?

Nuala is the second restaurant to open in the building right on the corner of Old Street roundabout on City Road (the other being Passo). It's about a 30-second stroll from Old Street tube station.

snugThe snug in the bar downstairs

Where's good to meet for a drink first?

There are several decent cocktail spots within a short distance - both Nightjar and The Gibson spring to mind and are well worth checking out if you've yet to do so.

But either before or after dinner, you have to head downstairs at Nuala, where a great Irish bar lies in wait for you. Worthy of a trip on its own, the bar - kitted out with snugs and home to live music towards the weekends - has a huge whisky list and a concise cocktail list. And Tayto crisps behind the bar (the proper ones, mind - not the yellow packet imposters).

meatsidePerfectly cooked Hereford sirloin

And the place itself, what's it like?

Designed by Niall's dad, the room is just lovely (a handy tip for any would-be restaurateur, ensure there's an architect in the family). The open kitchen wraps around one end. If you're seated at a table up here, you can watch dishes being plated up and the open fire being tended too. What we really liked were the tables for two around the edge of the room. These all face inwards into the dining room, so no-one gets the duff seat of having to sit with their backs to the action.

sweetbreads1Veal sweetbreads with cauliflower rarebit

So, the food. Is it Irish?

There are certainly some dishes that anyone of Irish extraction will recognise the inspiration behind - the creamy champ (£3.50) and the bowl of beautifully cooked spring cabbage studded with bacon (£4.50) - but in other dishes, that Irish nod is more of a foil to the modern British meets Nordic food coming out of the kitchen. So a snack of soda bread is topped with foie and clementine (£3) and mussels come with a pistachio beurre blanc (£9.50).

You'll perhaps have seen our Instagram video of the most-snapped dish on the menu - beefsteak tartare with extra stout sauce, egg yolk and dripping fries (£9). It's a heavenly dish. Sure it's Insta gold, but it has substance too. It reminded us of a similar dish at Shaun Hill's The Walnut Tree - taken to the next level.

Other highlights were Hereford sirloin cooked over the fire and served up with cucumber pickle (£24). Order two portions of the cod's roe crackers with chervil mayo (£2.50) - you won't want to share yours.

Desserts were equally dreamy - our favourite was a clementine posset, covered with sheets of salty meringue.

possetThe clementine posset with meringue

And what about the wine?

Honestly, we can't say better than to deliver yourself into the hands of Honey who'll give you the best tour of a really interesting wine list. To give you an idea of what's there, there's an extensive selection of wines - sparkling, red, white and orange by the 125ml/175ml and 500ml carafe. Prices start at around £5 a glass with plenty in the £20-30 bottle bracket before you go off into the higher regions. We also liked how the list was structured into Tried and Tested and Out of the Ordinary categories - to tempt you into experimentation.

Overall thoughts

We think Nuala is an excellent addition to the area. We really enjoyed our meal and there's clearly enormous talent on show. We want to go back and work our way through a lot more of the menu (we're already planning return visits), not to mention spending many an evening at the excellent downstairs bar. Definitely one to check out.


More about Nuala

Where is it? 70-74 City Road, London EC1

How to book: On their website

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @nualalondon