January sucks. There’s no two ways about it, it sucks big Simon Cowell balls. It’s particularly painful if you’re trying to adhere to a healthy regime, and as I’m three weeks away from my wedding there’s a crushing spartanism to our household’s diet right now. In fact, my fiancée won’t go within three feet of cheese, wine, bread, glucose, carbs, Coke, egg yolks, etc etc, anything fun god I’m boring myself thinking about it.
It doesn’t leave you many dining options. Google ‘healthy restaurants’ and try finding one outside California. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll get the odd half-hearted feature from some eating site on London, citing Saf (God help us) or, bizarrely, Masala Zone. Let’s face it, though, going out to eat and worrying about what the food will do to your waistline is more depressing than the words ‘president Newt Gingrich’. It defeats the purpose.
Still, I insisted we went somewhere during the Jan gloom, and fortunately Chalk Farm’s Hill Brasserie offered not only a post-festive freebie (disclaimer delivered) but a whole menu of healthy choices.
The boozer’s been tarted up in the last year, and the dark den of iniquity is now as light and airy as you’d expect for a North London pub, comfortable and pretty quiet, and dishing out Pacific American delights, many of which would sate the most belly-conscious health freak. From the raw bar: sashimi, salmon, yellow fin tuna, salt-water scallops; from crustacea corner: rock oysters, jumbo prawns, langoustines, shellfish and lobster; from the fish: salmon, sea bass and more scallops; from salads: quinoa concoctions and soba noodle piles.
I defied our penitent pledge for a lobster bisque which came creamy and smooth, perhaps taking a little too much pleasure in the thick buttered rolls, before a burnished brown sea bass, somewhat small but easily forked into unctuous mouthfuls, swimming in a puddle of butter aside a small mound of pea shoots. Considering it had all flown enough miles to earn it a free upgrade (it’s not just the owner that comes from the westernmost extremities of Northern America), it was fresh as you like. Tuna carpaccio, meanwhile, was soy-marinated and pretty pleasant although its noodle, carrot, cucumber and chili nest needed something more.
Virgin Marys (yes, really) could also have done with more of a kick but with a healthy dusting of pepper fooled me into thinking I was stroking the hair of a non-existent dog for a moment, and overall we left pretty chuffed. As we walked back down the hill to Chalk Farm tube, the whole of London unfurled through the winter haze before us. I’d not noticed that aspect before (presumably too drunk) and we walked home pretty pleased with ourselves and thinking that this time of year aint all that bad, really.
Price per head: Free for us but probably £20-30 a head.
Soundtrack: The Norah Jones end of the spectrum
The Hill Bar & Brasserie is part of the Taste London scheme, which I warbled on about at punishing length last year.