Pub food is dead, long live pub food.
I’ve previously discussed how pubs who serve food need to innovate to keep themselves relevant and gather crowds who want more than something lukewarm and cheap.
Radicals and Victuallers on Upper Street, Islington, has only been open a few months and despite opening during the worst time of the year to open a new bar, it appears to be doing quite nicely.
I was there for the food, but I couldn’t help but fall for the décor upon entry. It’s cool, simple but cool. It isn’t try hard and you could spend at least the time it took to drink one of the many quality beers they have on offer to walk about and admire the wall art.
Even the spotlessly clean toilets have prints from vintage cartoons adorning the walls, which is a refreshing change from curling posters advising me that if I’m drunk and lose my wallet that a national banking chain will let me withdraw cash with a pin code.
It’s big and has an open warehouse feel to it and it has a mixture of benches and tables for smaller groups and it has some very comfortable chairs which are extremely suitable for lounging on a full stomach.
I ordered what was presumably a pint, but appeared to be a bucket or more appropriately a stein, of Camden Hells lager and settled in to my seat.
On recommendation from the bar staff I ordered a meat sharer starter – a dish exciting enough – and the mains, oh…I’ll get onto the mains.
The meat sharer was an enormous platter, big enough for two but luckily I had a friend with me, of beef and pulled pork sliders, BBQ chicken wings and chips with hot sauce and cajun mayonnaise. Sliders are always difficult because they’re just more than a mouthful but inevitably you try to do it in one.
They were sweet and suculent and more than did the job of getting the juices flowing. The chicken wings in BBQ sauce were a delight. Thick with sauce the meat fell off the bone and readily into our mouths. This dish is definitely one to order on its own if you’re out with friends for a few beers. It was a bit big for a starter, but I was there to learn and thankfully my stomach appears to have grown as large as my eyes.
The main courses. It would be far too easy to say just go down and tell them Dominic sent you, so here goes.
A chicken burger…in waffles with bacon and maple syrup AND a doughnut burger. Yes, a burger inside a sweet delicious doughnut. I think that’s enough right there to make R and V your next destination.
So we could both enjoy the experience equally we had the burgers cut in half by the kitchen to make a sharing plate between us. Half waffle burger, half doughnut, half beef, half chicken and lots of bacon and maple syrup.
Waffles, with their quite unique texture work as a wonderful casing for a well cooked chicken burger. The bacon added a salty sharpness to take the sweet edge off and the maple syrup added a layer of gorgeousness around the whole thing. It was pretty much faultless – although I do realise that it won’t be to everyone’s taste – it was definitely the innovation I have been looking for.
The doughnut burger was a beef burger inside a doughnut that had been split in half. The burger itself had a real home-made taste to it, with that delicious texture that only comes from getting fresh mince and kneading it together with a few gentle herbs and spices for seasoning. It didn’t taste like there was an ounce of fat beyond what was needed to make it succulent in it, which is probably a good job as it was after all, served inside a doughnut.
As with the waffles, the sweetness of the doughnut wasn’t overpowering and splitting the burgers between us was an excellent idea – the very best of both worlds.
Both of these dishes sound like gimmicks, but I can assure you that my palate didn’t think so. The quality wasn’t compromised for the tricks and I am eagerly going back very soon. Radicals and Victuallers is a destination, and one that deserves more people through the door. They 2 for 1 burgers every Tuesday and I can only implore you to make the trip to Islington to check them out.
I don’t like to gush, and maybe it’s just because my cheeks are still red with the warm glow of a hot sugar rush, but it felt refreshing to go to a bar that really had invested in its food menu.
The food itself is served by Ruby Jeans Diner and other dishes on their menu include the nic-nak burger and a monster munch burger. They even serve three vegetarian burgers and spinach and lentil sliders so not many will have to look sullenly at their menu.
While I hope in time other bars take a lead from R and V, I hope they don’t cheapen the concept by producing similar but with low grade meat and cheap toppings. It’s a craft creating food worth travelling for while keeping costs low and with most of their food around the £10-11 mark, they’ve done it and they’ve done it well.