Restaurant Review: Karamel, N22
Jenisa Thumbadoo wants to keep a hidden gem of a restaurant in Wood Green all to herself
A popular lunch spot for the local office workers by day, Karamel moonlights as a bar, art exhibition space and host to a variety of live music events.
Situated in the self-styled cultural quarter of the up-and-coming Chocolate Factory area of Wood Green, this multi-tasking eatery is the type of venue that has been missing from the rapid gentrification of this North London suburb.
Upon hearing that Karamel offers a Saturday menu from 10am, I decide that it would be the perfect location for a mother-daughter Saturday brunch and catch up.
With its eclectic collection of shabby chic furnishings, whitewashed brick walls, open kitchen and a fantastic selection of artwork on the walls, Karamel evokes a relaxed, bohemian feel that would not be out of place in Camden or Islington.
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I later discover that the pieces are all created by artists in the area, although sadly an intriguing spider web canvas that captured our imagination had already been snapped up.
The restaurant’s contemporary approach is reflected in Chef Ian Marvell’s menu, which changes every few days. It aims to use fresh, in season, locally sourced ingredients and offers a good range of light, medium and hearty dishes to appeal to a wide clientele.
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Being in weekend-mode, I skip the appetisingly described feta and watermelon or stilton and pear salads and opt for a vegan hotpot while my mother selects the fresh battered haddock with chunky chips. Remarkably, given the quality of the dishes on offer, the majority of the mains come in at under �5.
While we wait, I enjoy what is possibly the best coffee I have tasted in London. Brazilian born owner Rosely clearly knows her java, which is supplied by W Martyn of Muswell Hill. A freshly squeezed orange juice is similarly delicious; although it’s not advertised on the menu so do ask!
The hotpot was a tasty dish and its meaty, rich flavour had me calling the chef over to double check its vegan status. The side of cabbage was cooked to perfection although the liberal drizzle of butter may not be to the taste of the health conscious out there.
But the star of the meal was the fish. Impressively fresh and encased in a thin, light and crispy batter it paired perfectly with chunky fries that were crunchy on the outside and soft and meaty on the inside. The accompanying homemade tartar sauce was in itself a reason to return.
Although we were stuffed, the dessert of the day was strawberries and vanilla cream with meringue so we pushed the boat out and shared a bowl which was a delightfully light, sweet finish to our meal. Of course, this was followed by another cup of the exquisite coffee.
The only downside I can see to a place like Karamel is that sadly everyone will soon find out about it and it will no longer be a hidden gem that those in the know can selfishly keep to themselves.
These are the type of places Wood Green has been crying out for. I am already planning my next visit... what a find!