Sunday, 9 September 2012

Restaurant review: Mishkin's

"VD spoke only to confirm that her Reuben was hitting the spot (something I've never managed)..."

One of the perils of being a self-proclaimed foodie is that when it comes to choosing somewhere to go out with friends, you're supposed to have a list of places you can reel off straight away, like a human version of Time Out. So when it came to choose somewhere to go out for dinner with a good skiing buddy of mine, his lovely wife and VD, I was given the job.

This time, I plumped on Mishkin's in Covent Garden, which is apparently a 'kind of Jewish deli with cocktails'. This is a relatively recent venture from that serial hit maker, Russell Norman, proprietor of numerous haunts which have been popping up all over the West End- Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and the rest. 

If you've never heard of our Russell, think of him as the Pete Waterman of the London restaurant scene, but instead of churning out identikit cheesy 80s records, he's churning out identikit hip London restaurants. 

That isn't a criticism mind, as they say, if you've struck gold, keep digging! So Mishkin's has got the same vibe that all his other outposts do - cheapish food and drink, hipsters manning the front of house, funky decor and a pretty casual atmosphere. 

Being half Irish Catholic and half Yorkshire Catholic means that I was always going to be fairly green when it  actually came to the New Yawk-Jewish style food at Mishkin's: I've never been to New York; I've never been to a Bar Mitzvah; I've never even seen my one Jewish friend - we'll call him Special Sauce - eat a bowl of chicken matzo ball soup; and I've only seen one Woody Allen film. 

So unlike Jay Rayner, I can't spend this review waxing lyrical about the schmaltz of my long lost youth...but don't let that put you off. A neophyte I might be, a connoisseur I remain.  

Stepping over the threshold you're immediately met with a bar, plenty of exposed brick and red leather booths, all very Jewish deli-esque (at least I'll assume that's the case, because I've never actually been to one before). 

It being one of the very few sunny days of the summer, a seat next to the windows would have been nice. Instead we were stuffed away at the back of the restaurant in some sort of enclosed booth, rather like a miniature railway carriage, with room for four well acquainted diners. 

I wasn't sure whether to be flattered by this or not - no-one else can see you in there, so maybe it's where they put the celebrity diners, or maybe it's a hobbit hole for the facially challenged amongst us? But I'm neither spectacularly ugly nor a D-list sleb, so who knows...

Menu wise, it's as advertised: chicken soup, chopped liver, Reuben on rye, salt beef, smoked salmon and schmear (cream cheese) etc. Like Polpo they also go for the meatballs thing here, which seems to be Russell's calling card. So to get the party started we shared the day's meatball specials, and in homage to the Fannie Flag classic, some fried green tomatoes.

The fried green tomatoes were the real deal, with the crispy batter and slightly sour tomato combining for a tasty mouthful. The meatballs were certainly good, but there's a limit to how excited you can get about three golf ball sized lumps of minced lamb, and I'm not excitable at the best of times.

Our visit was during the Olympics and being 'foul with patriotism' I left the trans-Atlantic options on the menu alone in favour of some good old East London, Brick Lane salt beef with slaw and Colman's mustard. 

Although pleasant, this wasn't quite the thing. The bread was close to stale, there was a grievous absence of the advertised Colman's and the beef came in large neolithic lumps, not the fine grained slices I was hoping for. Having said that, there was enough to satisfy the appetite of the most hungry of hungry rabbis.

The skier and his wife were enjoying their piroshkys and duck and orange blintzs respectively, while VD spoke only to confirm that her Reuben was hitting the spot (something I've never managed). I conspired to get hold of a morsel of her sarnie when she wasn't looking and can confirm it was a good 'un - decent pastrami especially, although I've had better State-side. 

Food, three or four carafes of wine, four beers and one cocktail later, we stumbled out of the booth, blinking into the sunlight (only to see the other diners recoil at our appearance, so maybe I am hideously ugly after all!). 

The final bill came to £140, which seems like a lot of money in retrospect, although accommodating VD's taste for the drink is always going an expensive affair. Would I go back? Yes probably - Mishkin's is a decent pre-theatre option and if you don't go with an Irish girlfriend, not bad value.

Miskin's, 25 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS

020 7240 2078

Monday to Saturday 11am-11.30pm. 
Sunday 12pm-10.30 pm

Miraculously, they take bookings - how uncool!

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