I have a thing about eating at the same restaurant more than once. This is due to living in London and the vast array of options available to me and I want to eat at all of them. I could go to a different restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a year and not cover half the places. Not to mention the turnaround of concepts that seem to be flooding the capital at the moment. In fact my local eatery, currently a small middle eastern place, has changed hands three times in the last 18 months and to be honest I enjoyed each visit which just goes to show the turbulent and often troubled business of running a restaurant. The whims of the consumer can devastate many years of planning and hard graft but they can also elevate careers to stardom and fortunes a plenty.
Alas I cannot possibly hope to visit all the wonderful myriad of restaurants in London, but I can try. Having said this my whole policy went out the window like a desperate politician vying for a seat at the table during hostile coalition negotiations with my first visit to La Farola on Upper Street a couple of weeks ago. I was due to meet a friend for dinner and as she lives in Islington we went for the Upper St stalwart of recent times that is La Farola. After a fairly manic weekend I was not in the best place to enjoy the delicate and sophisticated flavours on offer but none the less I was rejuvenated.
The setting is typical of any continental restaurant with small bistro tables that inevitably result in elbows knocking and jostling for position like the start of an F1 race throughout the course of the meal. This can often be infuriating but in the case La Farola it all added to the charm and in conjunction with the warm weather I could easily have been in a back street tapas bar in Barcelona.
We had a wonderful selection of tapas that started with Chipirones, fried squid, which was so tender on the inside but crispy on the outside we immediately ordered a second plate.
We also shared the Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese, fried in tempura batter and drizzled in honey which is possibly the most delicately balanced dish I have tried in a long time. We ploughed through the menu and it was all washed down by a delicious carafe of Sangria.
My second visit to La Farola was last Saturday which is likely to be the last genuinely sunny and hot of the summer. I had raved to close a foodie friend of mine about this place and as he had just moved in round the corner it was the perfect place to christen his residence on the so called ‘Supper St’.
I felt like an old hand now and I went straight for the Chipirones again accompanied by some char grilled ciabatta that was so delicious I had no qualms about paying £2.95 for the privilege. A plate of Pulpo a la Gallega, steamed octopus, followed which had just the right amount of sweet paprika to compliment the subtle flavours in the dish.
The jewel in the crown however was the special of Red Snapper served with roasted vegetables. Red Snapper is an incredibly bony fish and therefore it has to be cooked extremely well to justify the effort of eating it and I must say it was cooked to perfection with the beautifully tender flesh falling from the bone. A delectable bottle of Picpoul de Pinet from La Viste in the Languedoc region, with a fresh clean palate it is the eponymous accompaniment to seafood and great value at £19.95.
On both my visits I had a fantastic meal, great wine and even better service and it is because of this that I am reticent to recommend it to anyone as I would be devastated if I was denied such a glorious meal due to not being able to get a table.
However, the food lover in me cannot quite bring myself to deny the pleasure derived from such excellent food so I implore you to go, however make sure there is some Chipirones left for me. Meal for two with a bottle of wine and including service is £30 a head.
Guest review by fellow foodie @tommycormie. Like this review? Follow him on twitter! Food photography provided and copyrighted by La Farola.
CHARGRILLED BREAD £2.95
Chargrilled ciabatta bread served with extra virgin olive oil or ali oli sauce
CROQUETAS DE BACALAO £5.95
Salt cod croquets served with bravas sauce
PULPO A LA GALLEGA £6.95
Steamed octopus with fresh herbs served with thyme marinated baby potato and sweet paprika.
Crispy fried baby squid with ali oli sauce, choi-sum salad and grated lemon zest
GAMBAS AL AJILLO £6.95
Prawns sautéed with garlic, olive oil and fresh hot chili peppers.
PATATAS FRITAS £4.50
Roughly cut fried potatoes served with spicy tomato bravas sauce and ali oli sauce
COURGETTE FLOWERS £7.95
Courgette flowers in tempura stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey
CRISPY MAHON FRITO £5.25
Dip-fried mahon cheese, covered with ground almonds and served with tomato jam, salad cress and touch of sumak herb
Amazing freshness and flavours, delicately balanced but still punchy. Great Value.Book your table!
101 Upper St,
London N1 1QN (UK)
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