It’s one of Islington’s real hidden gems, but The Marquess Tavern deserves to be well-known thanks a seriously good approach to its food and drink
Growing up, I was an incredibly fussy eater. If I didn’t get what I wanted, I made sure my poor mother knew about it, which resulted in a rather disjointed diet until I discovered the joys of greens in my late teens. Sitting down and salivating over The Marquess Tavern’s menu, those memories have been invoked, particularly when it comes to their ‘from the grill’ menu that offers you a choice of a whole host of meat and fish, along with two sides and a butter or sauce of your choice. The only problem was choosing what to have.
But, first, let’s digress. I have been to The Marquess Tavern on a couple of previous occasions, under different ownership, but have always been impressed with what I found. In the heart of beautiful Canonbury, the exterior emerges in the distance like a beacon in the night, one of those places I wish was my local. The interior design has always been quirky and that remains – we love the lighting – and for those interested in only a drink, their bar is stocked to the gills with beer, ales and much more, but do try to make room for either their Scotch eggs or sausage rolls, a world away from a boring bag of crisps to keep hunger at bay.
My guest and I was here to enjoy the full works, however, and the menu is fabulous. They make a point of showing how serious they are about their food, and their attention to detail – from the expert advice to presentation – is top notch. I was desperate for some of their macaroni cheese, which I had heard good things about, and they were more than happy to accommodate my request to have that to start. And what a start: moreish, cheesy and mighty fine tasting, I couldn’t get enough. My guest’s scallops with pea puree and bacon wouldn’t look of place in a fine dining institution and was duly dispatched.
To those mains and big decisions to make. I went for the lemon and paprika free-range chicken, with fries and spinach, rocket and parmesan on the side. Opposite me was a gargantuan effort: sirloin steak with a peppercorn sauce, sweet potato wedges and spicy cauliflower cheese. Both dishes had a satisfyingly spicy kick to it: my chicken was delicious, as were the fries, but I wish opted for chilli greens too as my choice of rocket and spinach didn’t quite match up as well (my fault). Richard was defeated by the cauliflower cheese – there was a lot of it – but only had good things to say about the wedges and perfectly cooked steak.
With us both well set and enjoying the London Lager, it was no surprise that we found space for dessert. My lemon ginger crunch was cheesecake heaven, and Richard somehow tackled his generous slab of sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice-cream like a real trooper (helped by the fact it was fabulously gooey and addictive).
By the time we departed, there was a really nice buzz about The Marquess Tavern and it’s clear the message is spreading about their food. For too long this has been one of those places appearing on ‘hidden gems’ round-ups – if you haven’t been, go and find it.
Words: Mark Kebble
The Marquess Tavern, 32 Canonbury Street N1 2TB; 020 7359 4615; themarquessn1.co.uk