Restaurant Review: Croft Kitchen

This new Islington pop-up offers sociable dining and some surprising flavour combinations

Croft Kitchen is a wonderful new start-up and pop-up restaurant with a unique way of dining and a menu like no other I’ve tried. It’s like bringing a date to a really impressive dinner party, with the friendliest of atmospheres, superb-quality food that is beautifully presented and flavours that you’d never think to put together.

First of all, I already love Vagabond on Holloway Road as a venue, with its stylish distressed brickwork, cable-reel tabletops and wooden flooring giving a chic and trendy vibe. It’s got that earthy, fashionable edge and is situated a convenient five-minute walk from Highbury and Islington station, an area known for its many great bars and places to go on to after dinner.

My date and I arrived and were offered a table in the bar area – or “holding area”, I should say. We sat sipping our cocktails as we perused the venue.

The dining room itself had a storage/loft vibe and was situated at the back of the venue. It had odd bits and bobs scattered around (stay with me, don’t let that put you off), with a couple of beautiful, huge wooden bench share tables, hung on chains, for us and everyone else to sit around. Everything was neatly laid out; knives, forks, glasses and fairy lights sparkled around the room, giving a golden glow and making the venue feel warm and cosy.

The evening starts promptly at 7pm and you eat alongside around 50 other diners, who are all led into the dining room at the same time.

Above were open wooden beams with skylights letting in the last of the evening’s sun, and both my date and I felt confident that this was going to be a good spot for us to spend an evening of chill, with a glass of wine or IPA in hand. As everything is laid out on sharing plates, you have no choice but to mingle with others around you, which will add a nice touch for those who like a date to be a little more sociable than the usual table-for-two scenario.

Seven incredible courses of beautiful food were presented to us, including watermelon with sea salt and lime, chilled lettuce soup with salted lemon and lovage, roasted beetroot with red berries and mint, and raw sea bass with cucumber, celery and pine nuts. All ingredients are seasonally British with a splash of international, and chef Phil Walthar really nails every dish. The menu is set, so everyone in the room is eating the same dishes at the same time, which is another great way to mingle or spark up conversation – you can check in with those around you and find out how they’re finding each course.

I would absolutely recommend a visit to Croft Kitchen. It’s quirky and friendly, and the food is light and lovely. I’d also say it was great value for money; I can’t imagine anyone walking away disappointed. I’ll definitely be going back for seconds.

To find out more, visit Follow Lisa Coleman on Twitter at @Lisa_D_Coleman.

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