Salut!, Essex Road review: ‘ delightful, sophisticated modern European cuisine’

Salut! in Essex Road

Salut! in Essex Road - Credit: Archant

A relaxed atmosphere and sophisticated tastes meet Zoe Paskett at Salut! where she finds delight in modern European meat and veg

It’s hard to describe what gives a restaurant a good atmosphere. Does it mean friendly? Well air-conditioned? Good handwash in the loos? Maybe it’s to do with speed of service or having space enough to get down from the table without knocking over any candles.

Salut! at the Canonbury end of Essex Road covers all bases, though I can’t remember about the air-conditioning… It feels welcoming on arrival and the small corner street room is packed out on a Monday evening. I look around and imagine that the big windows will lend well to enjoying a bright lunch on the weekend.

Our table is the perfect viewing platform for the open kitchen, which is so hip and trendy these days that if your restaurant doesn’t have one then what are you really doing? The first thing we spy is le chef sculpting what looks like a big ball of sugary hair and placing it on something deliciously chocolaty – we vow to return to that later.

Prosecco arrives – it’s a Monday so, obviously – along with a plate of dark and springy sourdough which we smother in moreish smoked truffle butter. I don’t stop eating it until I remember that I have a meal to order and we opt for two starters.

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My whisky smoked wood pigeon breast (£9.30) is smooth, dark pink and rich, complemented by a lovely celeriac remoulade – basically coleslaw – with pickled carrots and 4 beautiful spots of juniper and blackberry sauce.

My friend is immediately drawn to the seared scallops with pan fried squid, a brush of squid ink, coriander broad bean and radish (£10.90) and is not disappointed by their tender texture.

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The presentation of everything – dots, spots and brushes – is very Masterchef final. It’s a beautiful and delicate way of plating, if a little overdone.

I get food envy as soon as I try to choose the main course; I’d love to sample the hake or trout or duck. But I go for lamb three ways (if we are going with the Masterchef lingo): chop, breast complete with crispy skin, and some small and tender best end bits. The highlight of my plate is a triangular dauphinoise that tastes perfect with the slightly bitter gravy (£19.60).

Across the table, the succulent 45 days dry aged rump steak is near-blackened outside and perfectly rare indoors (£19.80).

Finally we reach dessert and resist recommendations by our waiter to choose poached pear, remaining faithful to the love for chocolate through which our friendship was formed. We share the trio of liqueur crème filled chocolate spheres (£8.30).

Three little domes sit beneath a fragile caramel nest. We make a racket hacking into the chocolate like vultures and clean up the plate of its sharp macerated cherries.

Salut!’s modern European cuisine is delightful – it’s meat and two veg but sophisticated, darling. With some of the starter prices equalling that which you might expect for a main course in another restaurant, it’s crucial that you get what you pay for.

If you’re paying for a relaxed evening filled with delicious flavours, both subtle and strong, and service with not only a smile, but a wonderfully strong French accent, you’ll certainly get it.

Salut! 412 Essex Road N1 3PJ, 02034418808,

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