Camden Brasserie – Restaurant Review, London NW1
Camden Brasserie – Restaurant Review
David Constable Reviews
9-11 Jamestown Road
London NW1 7BW, United Kingdom
020 7482 2114
Jamestown Road, NW1, is a contrary postcode, leading from Camden Town up to Primrose Hill and through to Regent’s Park. Parallel to the canal and cushioning the vibrant market stools, 9-11 Jamestown Road is home to the Camden Brasserie, created by Uruguayan born chef, Julio Turano, and law student and waitress, Karen Doherty, twenty-five years ago.
With the help of Julio’s brother, Enrique, and Karen’s brother, Ross, they created a family-run brasserie, open all day on the bustle of Camden, and assisted by General Manager, Shy Mehta. The restaurant has only called Jamestown Road home since 2000 after relocating, but keeping its legs safely in NW1 territory.
The building is a rather ugly shell of green and clear glass panels, easy to miss, nested between Wagamammas and The Body Shop. It has the feel of an industrial unit – perhaps the CSB Cyclone range – and cars park directly outside its door, each getting in the way of the restaurants exterior. Depending on the colour, style and brand of car, this could be a good thing? There’s a hanging name board above – a nod to the English ale house – giving you direction, swinging in the wind above the entrance, as you walk past the camera-happy Chinese cluster, colourful, tattooed punks and leather-wearing skinheads with sharks on a leash.
Inside there’s a higher quality. It’s warmer and hardly a true representation of grubby Camden, so a good sign from a restaurant that has apparently favoured celebrities and politicians since the early-1980s. The walls are painted with variegated bookshelves and the tables and general décor is clean and white. The interior suggests a genuine compromise between the French café culture and its English interpretation.
The menu is tight and uncomplicated and there isn’t an excess of options to confuse you. It does however rarely see change, something that can be viewed as stale and derivative, but the restaurant’s website assures us it is due to, “when old dishes are replaced with new, the regulars complain!” There are, and I love this about restaurants, small and large options for the Starters. This is commendable as you can pick either size to suit your visit, whether it is lunch, brunch or as a light accompaniment. Selections include: merguez lamb sausages with mint cous cous, feta salad, cumin yoghurt & pitta (sml £6.50/lrg £11.95), warm duck salad with spring onion, cucumber & plum wine sauce (sml £6.95/lrg £12.95), and a delicious wild mushroom risotto with parmesan & walnut pesto (sml £6.95/lrg £12.95) that is unforced in creativity and a dish that punches your taste buds with a parmesan & walnut snap.
Those who have visited the Brasserie will tell you that they are rather proud of their famous pomme frites, which are (and I have researched and Googled this to great degree)… just chips.
The wine list boasts some prominent labels but the majority are only available by the bottle – which can add significantly to the bill and is a real restaurant plague for me – and only a small selection are available by the glass. The Chianti Classico Organic ’05 at £25.00 and Châteauneuf du Pape ’06 at £30.00 (spicy and delectable!) are two tasty and reasonable choices. My one glass of Beaujolais (Régnié ’05 saveur des braves) at £6.00 for 250ml was soft, pungent and well priced at a tad above a fiver.
The Mains are concise and reasonably priced (perhaps a pound or two excessive). The grilled calf’s liver with pan-fried sage, shallots & those celebrated frites, came as a disaster on the plate, with the appearance and design from a godawful Jackson Pollack student. It tasted good, was sliced, seared and rich, if a little dry, but was one of those dishes that certainly tasted better than it looked. Unfortunately, blindfold tasting was not an option. It was not worthy of the £15.95 price tag and I wish I’d have gone with the grilled chicken with saffron, hazelnut, honey & mange tout at £14.95. Saffron, hazelnut and honey sounds robust and festive, an enchanting dressing. I’m told by our waiter that the spaghetti with king prawns & spring onions in a chili & tomato sauce is a regular favourite (sml £6.95/lrg £13.00) and Alistair Campbell loves the rare steak here.
A plate of Oxford Blue, Waterloo soft cheese and Kirkham (£5.25) was an executive’s dessert. Looking around the room at lunchtime, most are executives and city slicker’s dining on expenses. My after dinner Americano snapped me back to life after a consuming, sleepy lunch for £1.95. Other dessert options include: black & white chocolate mousse, lemon posset and myrtlewood orange lemon cheesecake, all priced at £5.25. There is also a selection of Jude’s natural homemade ice creams from the family farm in Hampshire (white chocolate chip, honeycomb crunch (the very best!), vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate chip) for £4.50.
About David Constable:
David Constable was born in Kent and studied in both the United Kingdom and United States where he found it very difficult living on the student diet of baked beans and super noodles. Once released from academia and thrust into the ‘real world’ he found comfort in an eclectic mix of British, French, Italian and Mexican cuisine. His favourite restaurants in London are Roast and Launceston Place – precision of dishes and fine British game – and he enjoys red wine as much as he does his food. Amarone being his beloved tipple.
Along with his restaurant reviews, David also writes television reviews for Broadcast and a weekly media blog for Production Wizard. His website is: http://davidconstable.wordpress.com