The art of fine dining

Stephen Moore puts his tastebuds to the test on the edge of the City.

North Road

St John Street, EC1

020 3217 0033

HAVING tasted success with his first venture, Fig restaurant, Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova has split his empire in two, creating a wonderful neighbourhood bistro in Barnsbury and developing Fig’s menu for this eye-catching gastro experience on the edge of the City.

Hruskova has transformed the former home of the Clerkenwell Dining Room with crisp, Scandinavian lines, acres of creamy white and barely-there, pared down artwork.

Large hanging lights glow gently and the poised wooden chairs will get any design buff drooling.

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Focussing on the food, every crumb has had its appearance - and taste - pored over for some considerable time.

Hruskova is clearly keen to bring his experience and expertise to bear, having worked in kitchens across the globe after a turn in a Michelin starred restaurant in his homeland.

Pickled quails eggs arrived before we ordered, resting on a bed of hay, alongside puffy Danish pancakes with tiny bacon chunks and a morish artichoke and chanterelle spread to whet the appetite.

The Nordic-inspired, British-sourced menu offers dishes of bullish flavours bravely and deliberately set against one another, but precisely balanced.

The cured, hand-dived Scottish scallops (�9) were soft and delicately flavoured, almost lost against the deeply woody smoked bone marrow, but aided and abetted with salsify, a firm, cream-coloured vegetable laid like wood shavings on top, and unripe elder berries adding a sharp accent.

It’s as much a visual experience as a gastronomic one. My partner’s veal tartar (�8.50) arrived with a whipped, mousse-like horseradish sauce with crispy chicken skin reaching out of the dish like wafers from an ice cream. Already a feast for all senses - and the mains had yet to arrive.

Salsify turned up in a different guise alongside my tender, generous fillet of venison (�21) for the main course.

The meat was hidden under a fruity jelly-like cloak sprinkled with dried berries, while the mild salsify appeared as a stick rolled in liquorice-like burnt onion.

With so much exotic presentation packed onto one plate, I did get the feeling I was eating an art exhibit rather than a hearty dinner, and the flavours certainly take no prisoners.

Given the starters’ artistry, we weren’t sure what to expect from the ‘celeriac in textures’ and ‘crispy pork sauce’ promised with my partner’s delicious slow-cooked leg of Gloucester Old Spot pork in hay (�18). The sauce was presented in shards that melted into intense sticky flavour in the mouth, complemented by the truffle shavings, moist meat and delicious celeriac mousse.

Far from giving the tastebuds a rest, dessert of liquorice and caramel in textures (�7) and Yorkshire rhubarb and beetroot with yoghurt snow (�7) were equally intense adventures, the latter an inspired combo of sweet, sharp and sour.

Couple this with an extensive 120-bin wine list offering some sublime choices across the range from light to heavy, knowledgeable and friendly staff and a convivial atmosphere, and you have all the ingredients for an experience you won’t easily forget.


Mains: from �14 to �23

Wines: from �17.50 per bottle

Children welcome: Yes, but no high chairs

Disabled access: No disabled toilet