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The Junction Tavern NW5

Louise Elgin goes North to Kentish Town to see what's happening at

Now that so many old boozers have been transformed into 'gastro pubs' I am left wondering where their original clientele now imbibe? There must surely be a distinct shortage of the sort of place I tend to avoid, leaving the beer and sawdust brigade wondering where to conduct their next booze-up. At this rate there is going to be a serious drought of them, (so to speak!) as more and more establishments wake up and realise they are sitting on a potential gold mine. Still, it's all good news for you and me. Re-creating locals with a civilised atmosphere, good food and drink at reasonable prices in residential areas of London seems a sure-fire recipe for success.

The other night I tried out The Junction Tavern - a recent silver medal winner for 'Food Pub of the Year' (2003 Pub Industry Awards). It was also nominated for Time Out 'Best Gastropub' 2003 and seemed to have the full backing of its local residents - on a Wednesday night it was packed. The place was heaving with thirty something's having a good time. The large wood panelled room was divided between diners and drinkers, complete with high ceilings and cornicing, wooden dining tables and comfy leather sofas for the drinkers. Altogether a very convivial atmosphere to while away a summer's evening.

The dining area was dominated by the large stainless steel open plan kitchen, which was a hive of activity due to the very busy restaurant. We took our seats at a table, which was a little on the small size, but that was my only gripe. The staff were very attentive and friendly without being overbearing. Generally it seemed a very happy atmosphere.

Head Chef Robert Greenaway certainly knows his onions, as his menu changes daily depending on what's fresh in the market. The menu consisted of five starters priced between £4.00-£6.00, seven main courses priced between £8.00 and £12.00 and five puds all at £4 or £5 a piece.

I started with a chilled gazpacho soup with cucumber red onion salsa, £4.00. Perfect for the hot evening. The aroma was very inviting, with a hint of mint. It was very fresh and garlicky with tiny cubes of crunchy cucumber and a lovely hit of Tabasco. I was left with a delicious spicy aftertaste and could happily tucked into another helping. My guest commenced with roast beetroot, marinated feta and walnut salad, £4.50. It arrived beautifully presented with a bed of mixed lettuces, interspersed with the nuggets of walnut, feta and roasted beetroot. It was good without being earth shattering; her only negative comment was that maybe the chef had been rather heavy handed with the black pepper!

We were drinking a refreshing bottle of Chenin Blanc Stormy Cape, South Africa '02. At £12.50 per bottle we could have happily continued drinking this elixir till closing, alas the tedium of work the next day loomed, so us sensible lasses stopped at just the one! The nine white wines ranged from £11.50 a bottle for a Sauvignon Blanc, Bellefontaine from France and included a couple of New World Chardonnays, all fairly priced around the £15.50 mark. There were nine red wines, again all well priced, the most expensive being an Argentine Malbec at £16.50. Wines by the glass were priced at £3.00 for 175ml and £4.00 for 250ml.

Continuing our feasting, there was a varied choice of main courses to choose from. Being such a warm evening I definitely wanted something light and chose very well, ordering the seared yellow fin tuna, egg noodle salad with a hoisin and lemongrass sauce, £10.50. My taste buds were well and truly woken up by the lively flavours on the plate. The tuna was cooked rare; it had a crunchy satay style sauce, which was served with the crisp egg noodles and crisp vegetables. The lingering flavours on my palate were that of coriander and lemon. Altogether a very refreshing combination. My guest was also in the mood for something delicate and chose poached langoustines, Jersey Royals, watercress served with lemon butter, £11.00. Again, perfect for the hot evening, it was simply served with a large helping of everything, fresh and succulent. Other offerings included the rather odd combination of grilled polenta, puy lentils and avocado salsa, £8.00, and a more traditional rib eye steak, jalapeno and garlic butter, chips and rocket salad at £12.00

The five puddings all sounded tempting and one or two had to be sampled. (Purely for your benefit, dear readers!) I ordered the lemon tart, £4.00, under the premise that I would only eat a few mouthfuls…only it was so good I scoffed the lot! It was quite rich with perfect pastry, a classic beautifully cooked. Our other choice was the passion fruit sorbet served with fresh fruit, £4.00. This was tangy and refreshing, light in texture with a good flavour on the palate. Next time I'm going to try and keep some room for the chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, £4.00, or the poached pears, mascarpone, vanilla shortbread, £4.00. I'd recommend sitting in the heated garden or the conservatory as well as the restaurant. At around £60 for two you're in for a treat!

Louise Elgin. July 2003

The Junction Tavern 
101 Fortress Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 
Tel: 020 7485 9400

Misdirections for visitors: 
NB Kentish Town is nowhere near Kent, which is South East of London. Kentish Town is in North London!

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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