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Test Driving The Nook - an Islington neighbourhood restaurant par excellence

roomThere are three tables upstairs but quite a few more in the cosy basement dining room.

What can you tell us about The Nook?

The Nook has taken over the site that was Linden Stores (and before that the first site of  Prawn on the Lawn) so it already had big shoes to fill. It comes from Angus and Lale Oztek-Pook who have experience at Zucca, Bernardis and Oklava among others. As the former occupant was Oklava's Laura Christie who also ran Linden Stores - they were first to get the opportunity to take on the space when Linden Stores shut up shop. 

Where is it?

At the bottom of Highbury Grove where it hits St Paul's Road - about a five-minute walk from Highbury and Islington station. It's a two-floored operation - so while it might seem small at first glance - there's much more space in the basement. There are also a couple of tables outside if you're meeting a non-housemate/bubble person for a bite. 

So what's on the menu?

Described as "contemporary European with a Turkish twist", there are a few different aspects to the menu.

During the day, as well as the option to dine in, there are a lot of takeaway options. To start with, they do a line in filled buns that look like they should sit in the top tier of London's best sandwiches. Of particular note on the daytime menu is the brown crab and crayfish brioche - a clear sandwich of kings. With many more deli items available, if you're in the area, you owe it to yourself to pop in at lunchtime. 

And in the evening?

Then things switch more to more of a sharing concept - with a menu of snacks, cheese and charcuterie, larger dishes and sides. Everything on the menu comes in generous proportions - and it's only that fact which stopped us ordering more (we'll definitely return for the veal schnitzel with English mustard aioli as that sounds right up our street). 

Here's what we had on the night. 

roomCauliflower and chickpea fritters, sun-dried tomato emulsion (£7.50) - there's actually a third hidden in the back. Perfect (and huge) fritters and damn, that sauce is good. 

roomFrigitelli peppers and sea salt (£5.50) - think of them as Padron peppers adjacent.

roomHummus, pickled naga, fresh herbs, crispy chickpeas (£7) - an almost impossibly smooth hummus, with spicy pickled naga mixed in for a real hit. Pair this with some bread from the excellent Bread by Bike (they also sell their loaves here during the day). 

roomCrayfish, brown crab mayonnaise, capers and toasted brioche (£10.50) - this is the evening version of one of their top lunchtime buns. Much better for sharing - and that mix of crab and crayfish is divine.

roomMiso pork shoulder, kosho potato mash, greens and pickles (£18) - a gloriously slow-cooked piece of pork, seasoned to perfection. Note that there's also a sandwich-style version of this during the day. 

What about dessert?

Although we'd been very well fed up until this point, dessert is a must. Although if dessert isn't your thing - making good use of the cheese board (which changes regularly) should also be a priority. Here's what we had (although there was also a rice pudding with red wine poached pears on the menu which looked very tempting). 

roomHazelnut parfait and warm miso caramel with cocoa nibs - miso caramel's a must-order for us whenever we see in on a menu.

What about drinks?

The wine list focuses on sustainable, organic, biodynamic and minimal intervention wines (with a key partner in London's Renegade winery - and everything's available to take away. Prices start at £26 a bottle (with plenty available by the carafe). On our visit we had a bottle of Domaine Luneau-Papin 2018 Muscadet (£32 dining in, £18 to take away) which was a perfect match for everything we had - and we'll be returning to buy a bottle to take away - it was that good. Special mention also for the Vigna del Volta by La Stoppa which proved a great choice to finish off the meal and matched the parfait perfectly. 

Overall thoughts

This unassuming site in Highbury has played host to some cracking restaurants and that tradition continues with The Nook. Opening during the pandemic is trying for anyone - but The Nook has created the perfect neighbourhood restaurant (although it's one we think is worth crossing town for too). The excellent deli offering during the day paired with a welcoming evening vibe added to which a menu where we wanted everything but were only stopped due to generous portions (a good thing) make this well worth a visit.

More about The Nook

Where is it? 220 St Paul's Rd, Highbury, London N1 2LL

To book: Contact them on their website

Find out moreVisit the website or follow them on Instagram @thenook_london.

 

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