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63-69 Canonbury Road
Part of a wee gang of three covering N1 and EC2 (The Pig & Butcher and The Princess of Shoreditch being the other two), the Smokehouse is a gastropub through and through. It doesn’t open until 5pm Monday to Friday, yet despite the lack of daytime hours it is definitely a pub, with a stonking range of beers by draught and bottle – including a great showing from London. There’s a highly serviceable European-based wine list too. Rustic-chic is the order of the day when it comes to the decor, with plenty of wood and a verdant patio garden. But although you’ll find hearty smoky dishes on the menu to match, the food is actually rather refined, with the kitchen producing foie gras ganache with peaches and granola alongside the Highland cow-burger with Korean pulled pork, or smoked lamb shoulder with polenta. We also found a genuine passion for provenance here.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here about Marianne Lumb’s colourful career as a private chef and the benefits of operating one of London’s smallest kitchens.
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63-69 Canonbury Road
020 7354 1144
Essex Road Station 365m
Highbury & Islington Station 473m
The Tower Theatre 218m
Hen & Chicken Theatre 422m
Mon-Fri 6-10pm Sat 11am-4pm Sun 12N-9pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
The 2 of us booked for a late (5.00) Sunday lunch. It was busy but there were six visible tables for 2 available. We were told our table wasn't ready and could we sit at the bar, they'd be 10-15 minutes. I ordered a pint of IPA, listed at £4.70. When I came to pay I was charged £7.20! Apparently they sell some beers by the 2/3 of a pint, so you have to pay the extra third for a pint (plus a bit extra, the maths says it should have been £7.05 but I paid £7.20, for a pint of IPA in a north London boozer!). Looking carefully it does have (2/3) in small numbers after some beers, but there's no explanatory note anywhere. When I queried it the bar manager looked bored and walked off. To be honest, it's somewhere between cheeky and fraud.
After 20 minutes we asked about our table, and were told it wouldn't be long. There were still six empty tables for 2. Another 10-15 minutes later we asked again and were seated shortly after, beside 4 empty tables for 2 that stayed empty all evening. And because we'd asked about the table a couple of times, front of house dropped our menus from a height and walked off.
This was in contrast to our very charming and efficient waitress, who did a lot to pull back the terrible impression created so far. However the meal was a disappointment; the advertised smoke had gone missing in action, neither the pork nor lamb had a hint of smoke. This looked to be because we had the middles meat from the shoulder, so the smoky outside wasn't there to add flavour. So what we had was a decent roast lunch (with potatoes that had clearly been cooked a few hours earlier), but nothing more.
Unfortunately I would have to say avoid this place. The bar and FoH were really quite unpleasant, and the food was decent boozer quality but nothing more. Don't make a detour to visit Smokehouse.
This was my second visit to Smokehouse, another one of the growing chain of Noble Inn pubs (alongside Pig and Butcher in Islington and also the Lady Ottoline in Holborn). The Smokehouse is a lovely fancy pub, just a walk from Highbury and Islington station, and definitely aims right to the heart of carnivores in the area. Veggies need not apply.
I have to say i wasnt feeling hugely adventurous with the starters and so went straight to the mains. There isnt a extensive menu so i stuck with the popular Shortrib bourguignon (£17.50) which was absolutely filling and delicious. Basically meaty ribs on mash. My partner had “The Sphere” smoked ham hock, pigs cheek, squid romesco & fregola (£18) which he said was nice but rather a small portion and left him hungry. I finished with the Double D tart (essentially a double decker pie) but again, minute portions for the price. That said, it was lovely and not something id tried before, so made a change from the usual chocolate brownies or sticky toffee puddings which are on every pub menu.
I think although the food is really very tasty, it is still just very expensive pub food, and as a result, i think there are plenty of alternatives. The bonus to being here is there is a really lovely outdoor seating area, and really good service. Foodwise - The Pig and Butcher (their sister pub) is a good alternative where i actually think the food there is better and you get more value for your money.
Food + drink: 4
The previous incarnation House has morphed to Smokehouse with a change of ownership and team and a revamp, which an a casual glance is not significantly altered from before, on the decor and garden front: not really loving the cheesy ‘wedding arch’ and christmas-tree fairy lights in the garden much – bit of a mismatch with the specialty-beer-and-beef-heavy Man Food menu. More greenery outside does help to screen the garden area from the road boundaries however.
Foodwise, Smokehouse is very different in style to before: with House, there was a bit of an identity struggle: is this a restaurant or a pub? It never bothered me, but many friends and family found that offputting for some reason, and the menu then threw pizzas into the rather elegant seasonal dishes mix which did seem a bit odd.
It doesn't really matter what Smokehouse is, it is certainly an exciting eatery concept from The Pig and Butcher stable: in-house smoked meat and fish, prepared and barbecued in Big Green Egg BBQs (google them: I SO want one!) with a Robata grill thrown in for good measure – I couldn't detect any Japanese influence in the menu, so the Robata is just another cool kitchen tool it seems.
Turned up with son just before 9pm on a weekday: the place was quite full and busy, and without a booking, we were advised there would be a short wait before ordering – which stretched to an actual 50 mins. No bread or nibbles of any sort offered. Went straight to the wine list which was shortish, with good choices and fair prices. The only non-red-meat main (excluding corn-on-the-cob, which is also a side dish offering and so a poor main-course veggie option) was monkfish with heritage tomatoes and a smokey sauce which I ordered, with lobster frittata to start; son had smoked duck confit with fourme d'aumbert toast, and mutton chops with caponata to follow and we had the Smokehouse salad and stovies as sides.
Bad news: the last monkfish had gone. Lesson to be learned by Smokehouse – there is a reason the fish sold out because it was the only main course without steak, ox or mutton! More fish/chicken/duck/whatever and a better veggie choice are needed fast. I had a second starter instead…
The lobster frittata was A-MAZ-ING: wasn't sure what to expect, up came a dainty delicious disc of frittata with big chunks of perfectly-cooked fresh lobster generously topping it, with a hat of peppery micro-leaves and a delicious spicy sauce which I thought would be too much for the lobster but wasn't. An 11 of of 10. I didn't really want to share the news as I am worried there will be a run on lobster l(ike the monkfish) and I'll never get to eat it again.
Mutton chops and accompaniments – big tick; stovies divided us – as a born-and-bred Scot and the grand-daughter of an Edinburgh butcher, I didn't like them at all as they were nothing like the traditional stovies I know and love: mine – sliced potato with melting browned onion cooked in dripping and concentrated stock to fondant potato consistency; Smokehouse – lamb shreds with mushy mashy potatoes. Son not brought up in The Tradition loved them however, and would happily order them ‘standalone’ as a bar snack: like creamy mashed potatoes with lamb bits, he declared. Smokehouse salad was chargrilled bits and bobs: gem lettuce, fennel, lemon, tomatoes. No oil dressing so too dry, fennel required son's steak knife to cut into biteable pieces leaving inedible large hard core…needs improving. Smoked duck confit also divided us: son was happy boy, I had this as substitute ‘main’ and did not get what little chunks of cold cheese added to pot of delicious duck pieces – if the cheese had been grilled on the bread, warm and oozy, it would be a different story I think.
Nice waiter asked if we would come back, and the answer is a big fat yes. I really hope most of the issues are normal start-up gripes, and I would book to be able to expect to eat long before the stars appear in the sky – and before the monkfish is all gone.
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