Restaurant Review: Roots at N1
Rob Bleaney checks out a classy new Indian restaurant making waves in an old Barnsbury pub
As Simon Cowell would say in this X-Factor dominated era - Roots at N1 has star quality.
Set in a historic corner building surrounded by million pound houses just a stone’s throw from Thornhill Square, the setting is stunning - but the venue does have a chequered history.
For many years it was a rough and ready boozer called the Huntingdon Arms, and was more earthy Caledonian Road than posh Barnsbury.
After that it became The Cuckoo, the sort of bland gastro-pub that are ten a penny in Islington these days, and its emptiness spoke volumes.
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Thankfully now though, talented trio Harsh Joshi, Rohit Bisht and Bholar S Kunwar have taken over and sprinkled it with stardust.
Head chef Bholar last worked at Benares in Mayfair, Harsh came from The Ritz, and Rohit from The Oberoi, New Delhi - and as well as an impressive pedigree, they share a passion for contemporary Indian cuisine.
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Harsh and Rohit patrol the beautifully revamped restaurant floor with charm and style, while Bhola works his magic in the open kitchen, producing some of the most inventive Indian dishes you could imagine.
The menu is short, but the flavours are sensational. The tandoori lamb chops and tandoori tiger prawns are to die for, and come as starters or mains. Fish lovers can begin with the wonderful fennel and peppered squid, while there is even a selection of tandoor roasted vegetables on the menu.
Having been blown away by ours starters, we moved swiftly on to the signature main dishes, a lamb shank “roganjosh” which dropped off the bone to into a wonderfully rich sauce, and a seared seabass with curried squash and coconut sauce that left my dining partner in raptures.
Presentation is everything here, and classic side dishes of rice, nan, cumin flavoured crushed potatoes and the stunning black lentils with red kidney beans are served up in appetising small bowls.
Let’s face it, Indian deserts suffer from a bit of an image problem, but a sensational carrot pudding with vanilla ice cream soon put paid to that stereotype.
Eating at Roots really is about as far away as you can get to your classic curry house experience.
Huge windows give the restaurant a light and airy feel. Most diners enjoy glasses of Chilean sauvignon blancs or Argentinian malbecs rather than pints of beer with their food (although Tiger and Cobra are both available if you want it). And you can expect an amuse bouche instead of poppadums when you first arrive.
This is fine dining Indian-style - and long may it last.