28 April 2012

Salt Beef, Gin, Etc: Mishkin's Review

Update (June 2016): Mishkin's is now permanently closed.

I jumped on the Polpo train pretty early and have visited all of the first four restaurants in Russell Norman's too-hip-to-be-a-chain mini-chain at least twice. Somehow, though, Mishkin's, an English take on a hip, New York Jewish deli, has eluded me thus far. Located on Catherine Street in Covent Garden, it is also the only restaurant in the clan that allows you to book in the evenings, which caught me unawares when I made last-minute plans with a friend last night and we were told that tables and the lovely red, diner-style booths were booked solid until 10 pm. Luckily, you can eat at the small, well-stocked bar and because it's a Russell Norman joint, the bar is a very cool place to sit. And in case it isn't clear, Katz's Delicatessen, Mishkin's ain't.

Mishkin's: Salt beef. Gin. Meatloaf.

We arrived at 7.15 and had to wait about 20 minutes for two bar stools to become free, which I didn't think was too bad for a Friday night, although the queue had grown by the time we left. While we waited, we sipped some excellent cocktails, most of which were gin-based, which is perfect for me. I chose the Clover Club (Plymouth, raspberry, lemon), which was pink, tart and strong. The glass in which it was served was elegant but it's a shame it wasn't a longer drink.

Mixing up my Clover Club. Pretend you didn't see the Carlsberg can.

When we were seated, we were faced with the problem of deciding what to order. Lots of things sounded good but I kept honing in on the more British dishes--the fish finger sarnie, for example, and the fried egg and chips--and I felt I ought to order something more venue-appropriate on my first visit. Luckily, my companion hails from across the pond and was able to translate some of the menu items. In the end, we decided to go for mac and cheese with salt beef, which the menu designated as "to share." The bartender told us we'd probably need another dish though, so we also ordered half a salt beef sandwich with cauliflower slaw on the side. Actually, we would have been fine with just the mac and cheese and a side of mushy peas or chips (the latter looked amazing), but we managed to eat most of our meal. It all tasted great to me (I'm no expert) and my American friend concurred. The only problem was that we had no room for pudding, which is a pity because I was really keen to try the warm choc chip cookie with ice cream and to see what Bananas Foster looked like.

Mishkin's, like its sister restaurants, manages to be both hip and relaxed at the same time, which can be rare in central London. The food and drink was excellent and the prices were pretty reasonable. One of the confusing thing about some of Norman's other restaurants is that the combination of small and large dishes on the menu means that it can be tricky working out how much food to order, but the Mishkin's menu has just main course and pudding options. If there are two of you, the bar is a lovely place to sit, but if you're in a bigger group, I would recommend booking a booth.

Mishkin's. 25 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS (Tube: Covent Garden). Website.

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