Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gastropubs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gastropubs

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLES CAMPION

The Junction Tavern, NW5

101 Fortess Road, NW5 (020-7485 9400) Dinner for two with wine, pound sterling50 .

It seems but the blink of an eye ago when the Junction Tavern (then commonly abbreviated to the JT) was a nondescript, rather unpolished pub giving pride of place to lager and the pool table.

Then the people who run the Northgate in Islington - which clocked up two stars in this column last October - took it on and the new-style JT has ended up short-listed for a recent 'Best Gastropub' award.

The dining room is overlooked by the open kitchen and looks very gastropubby in maroon paint and dark panelling. So far, so good.

The problems start when you read the menu, which is somewhat lacking in personality. Six starters - a cheese salad, a soup (potato and leek), mussels, duck empanadas, scallops, bowl of olives. Mains - a veggie dish, a veggie pasta, a steak, a char-grilled chicken breast, trout, and a chickpea and ham stew. Maybe the customers around here are a steady lot, but the menu over at the Northgate seems more rewarding.

From the starters, the scallops - pan-fried and served with spring onions, a mountain of rocket and a pleasantly aggressive sweet chilli sauce in the Thai style - are perfectly cooked and deserve a prize for the splendid portion size (four large scallops for pound sterling6 is a bargain). But then the duck empanadas with plum sauce undo the good work - two tiny fried pasties, dried out duck.

Turning to the mains, a char-grilled ribeye steak is accurately cooked and comes with very, very good chips.

The chick pea, chorizo and ham stew with rocket, however, is a disaster - very, very salty indeed. So salty, in fact (due no doubt to the input of the ham and chorizo) that you wonder how the chef managed to prevent the chick peas hardening. Strange this, as at the Northgate food was, if anything, under-seasoned.

The Junction is a difficult place to encapsulate - barring the occasional mistake, the overall standard of cooking is sound, but the dishes themselves are ill-conceived. The service is excellent. The wine list runs up to a sensible pound sterling16 or so.

There's real beer. …

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