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Excellent food that won't break the bank

PUBLISHED: 15:28 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:12 14 October 2010

Wenlock & Essex offers real value for money

Wenlock & Essex offers real value for money

THE last time I braved this prime-located Islington nightspot – when it was the considerably less classy The Living Room – I had one of the most surreal nights of my life. Celeb design duo Sadie Frost and Jemima French had just opened their flagship fash

THE last time I braved this prime-located Islington nightspot - when it was the considerably less classy The Living Room - I had one of the most surreal nights of my life.

Celeb design duo Sadie Frost and Jemima French had just opened their flagship fashion boutique in nearby Camden Passage, and (being a fearless reporter who never lets a good story go) I had managed to sneak past the paparazzi into the after-party.

Confronted with the sight of Kate Moss and Courtney Love cutting some rug on the dance floor and guest DJ Noel Fielding behind the decks, I grabbed as many free Mojitos I could lay my hands on as they were dished out by the toothsome hostesses.

A good story to tell down the pub maybe, but I can't say I shed a tear when the credit crunch forced The Living Room to shut its doors for good earlier this year.

All of which made our excellent Sunday lunch for four at the newly-opened Wenlock & Essex, almost exactly three years later, all the more surprising.

Fitted out around a loose circus theme ("carousel and cabaret space meets local boozer" says the press blurb) the dapper décor is fittingly jolly - a revolving door, lashings of vivid red paint, dark flock wallpaper and dazzling rows of dressing room light bulbs.

Run by the owners of Shoreditch trendsetters Electricity Showrooms and Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, what sets Wenlock & Essex apart from its stablemates is the focus on food - and really excellent, value-for-money food at that.

Head chef Will Pugh trained under Michelin-starred Leeds restaurateur Simon Gueller, but for all that expertise a superb cut of pinkish beef with all the trimmings will only set you back £12.

My pork - a meat so often served dry and devoid of flavour - arrived tender and moist with a hint of tarragon while baby carrots, honey glazed parsnips and roasts were all done to just the right side of crispy and crunchy.

The 10oz rump steak was a beauty, as were two bottles of very reasonable Italian Sangiovese (£14.75 each). Special mention too for the fabulous homemade desserts - I defy you not to manage a slice of dark chocolate and ginger tart with vanilla ice cream.

Less than a minute's walk

from Upper Street, the night-time trade here is as buzzing as you would expect. According to our waitress, it was three deep at the bar until 2am on the Friday before our visit.

But the gigantic tables make this the perfect place to spread out the weekend papers, and with some great background music and a real mix of locals of all ages soaking up the atmosphere during our leisurely afternoon visit, I for one will be leaving the estate agents and glamour girls to it.

- MATT HUMPHREYS

Wine: from £14.75

Mains: from £8 (brunch from £4)

Children welcome: yes, all day until 10pm

Disabled facilities: yes


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