Nous aimons | Assiette Anglaise, 489 Liverpool Road, Islington, London N7 8NS ** ASSIETTE ANGLAISE HAS NOW CLOSED**
*SADLY, ASSIETTE ANGLAISE HAS NOW CLOSED*
Just a few minutes walk away from the hustle and bustle of Highbury and Islington station and the madness that is Upper Street, is possibly one of the best little independent restaurants that we have visited for a long time. Assiette Anglaise is a charming understated proper neighbourhood restaurant, where Saff remembers Morgan M being from her north London days.
Now my French isn’t very good, hence my lowly D grade CSE, so sometimes I feel a little intimidated by the menus in French establishments. But at Assiette Anglaise I really needn’t have worried, we felt relaxed and at ease as soon as we walked through the door. I always like to look up the translation of restaurant names, so I punched in Assiette Anglaise into Google to see what would pop up. Assiette – a plate or a course of a meal, that makes sense. Assiette Anglaise – cold meats! But type it into Google translate and you are given ‘English plate’! Now I’m confused, remember I did only get a D.
But what isn’t confusing is the decor and the menu. The restaurant is simply styled with soft, muted tones and walls painted with soft flowing illustrations – one of a woman who has more than a passing resemblance to Botticelli’s The birth of Venus. There is a marbled central bar surrounded by simply set white-topped tables and classic black chairs. Candles flicker and romance fills the air, even the attentive owner Ludovic was waiting tables. If it weren’t for the red buses passing by we could have easily been dining in a Parisian backstreet.
Saff’s aperitif of choice was a Negroni £7.50, wait a minute aren’t they Italian? I was off the alcohol so settled for a Coke, from the bottle, naturally. But had I been on the booze the French Martini £7.50 would have corrected the French/Italian balance. Another plus point was that the menu wasn’t trying to be clever, it was short but varied. Head chef Matthew Tarantini (formally Elliot’s Café, Hibiscus, Odette’s) is new to their kitchen, he says of his new role ‘My aim at Assiette Anglaise is to create interesting food that is accessible and not overbearing. I plan to use French techniques and classics to influence and inspire my dishes.’
There was a charcuterie and terrine section, starters, mains, sides and desserts. And that’s all, no fancy small plates, no ‘jars’, ‘planks’ or ‘crocks’. You knew where to order from, no guessing how many jars in a plate or whether you need to share that plank or order one each.
While we scanned the dishes we were given some top quality tapenade with crispy toasts, luckily some bread arrived which we used to scoop up every last bit of the olive, caper and anchovy dip. Again I used Google to look up tapenade – a dish of ancient Roman origin but with a French name. I see a pattern forming here, a French restaurant with strong Italian influence? Hinted at with the Botticelliesque painting and confirmed by an Affogato on the dessert menu.
Saff dived in and ordered the Palourde clams, cuttlefish and orzo £9. She never used to like shellfish but I think the devilled mussels from One Leicester Street have converted her. These little clams with soft sweet tomatoes, chunks of white cuttlefish and rice-sized orzo pasta all sat in a light sauce. And don’t be afraid to slurp this up, they wouldn’t have given you a spoon if they didn’t want you to! I couldn’t resist the Crispy pig’s head terrine £6 – three triangles of dark rich pigs cheek and sweet pork fat fried in breadcrumbs and served with a light caper dip. Delicious, I really didn’t want it to end.
With Saff’s main she snuck in a cheeky glass of Syrah, Chateau Saint Cinice Plays du Gard 2011 for a reasonable £5.50. It went perfectly with her Braised feather blade beef served with roasted beetroot, turnip and trompette mushrooms £16. My Pheasant breast, Jerusalem artichoke, cavolo nero and pancetta £14, was simply one of the best dishes I’ve eaten all year. The bird was perfectly cooked and the cavolo nero had that satisfying crunch. But it was the smoky pancetta and mashed artichoke that was the star of the night, I could have eaten a bucketful. Saff adored her dish, a huge piece of succulent meat that could easily be cut with a spoon, alongside earthy beets and pungent mushrooms, this was pure and simple winter comfort food.
We shared a couple of sides, well we shared one side – the Dauphinois potatoes £4 were all for me. The Dandelion and radicchio salad £3 was a little too bitter for my taste buds. Give me cheesy potato any day of the week.
Desserts, in comparison to the other courses are fairly simple. I had the Walnut financier £6, a traditional French sponge cake served with spiced mulled wine poached pear and a slightly sharp crème fraiche. This would make a perfect Christmas day dessert, I might just have to ask for the recipe. Saff can’t resist a tart, especially a Dark chocolate one served with star anise crème anglaise £5. A light flaky chocolate crust and a not too rich filling, unlike most chocolate tarts we come across.
We so wish that Assiette Anglaise was our neighbourhood restaurant or even was a little closer to where we work. The quality of the food and service was première classe (see what I’ve done there?) and this little restaurant deserves to be a massive success. If it’s not, well, then I’ll eat my béret!
489 Liverpool Road, Islington, London N7 8NS
Telephone: 020 7609 0300
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm (last orders by 10pm)
Weekend brunch 9-4pm. Closed for lunch on weekdays
Book a table here
Nearest station: Highbury and Islington, Holloway Road or Caledonian Road