Grouse. I had been thinking about a good piece of grouse for weeks because the hunting season for these game birds is back in late August. Mister had been trying to get us a table at The Harwood Arms since we hopped off the plane, but on a Friday evening? Ha. So despite my reservations of these 'dining rooms' above pubs, Princess of Shoreditch had the right menu in the right place.
We made our way up the spiral staircase at 9:30 and it was almost a full house.
Free range pork scotch egg, apple slaw
I was surprised that Mister went with the scotch egg. Personally it never appealed to me, I didn't know what a good scotch egg is supposed to taste like.
As the runny yolk slowly poured from the centre, wedged within a layer of just-cooked (and collapsed) egg whites and thick rim of moist pork meat, I may start liking scotch eggs. The flavours reminded me of an English breakfast really, yolk-covered pork sausage seasoned with sage - nothing complex, just hearty and comforting.
Salmon Ceviche, pepper puree, gem hearts
Since we had crab on toast for lunch at Elliot's cafe earlier that day, I went for ceviche, hoping for something lighter. It was quite a substantial ceviche dish - cubes of salmon marinated in lime juice just longer enough to 'cook' the surface, leaving the middle raw and bouncy. Fishiness came from the cooked side while the sashimi retained its fragrant fish oils. The marinade was quite one-dimensional, however, could do with more depth or layer to keep the dish interesting.
Nonetheless, the acidity got my palette and stomach juices going to welcome my much anticipated grouse!
28-day aged Hereford sirloin, watercress, double dipped chips, red wine jus
Mister had a hard time choosing his mains. First it was venison, but we had it for lunch; then it was pork belly, but at the last minute he realised his starter was already pork. In the end he almost reluctantly settled for the sirloin, and it was partly my fault as I read somewhere that they serve the smoothest beef in London. Well, they don't.
It was quite disappointing really. The steak was unmistakably overseasoned, fuelled with the very burnt, not gracefully charred, rind, it was downright unpleasant in mouth. The quality of meat was okay, however the beefy flavours were somewhat meek and mild as it lacked meat juice. All I tasted was salt and pepper.
Why didn't we send it back? We waited for a good 45mins after we finished our starters for the mains and it was nearing 11pm.
Grouse, black pudding, chargrilled spring onions, glazed beets, bacon jus
My grouse turned out better; the skin looked a bit burnt and quite lifeless, bit it was beautifully crimson and rare nearer the bones. The lean muscles were powerful, packed with bloody gaminess. The black pudding croquette was pungent, slightly dry, and was awkward with the beets. Perhaps not as strong as the one I had at Pollen Street Social or Medlar, as the composition was thin on finesse, but good enough as a fix for this great game bird.
It was quite fiddly to eat - Given it was served as a whole bird, and it's rawness, a serrated blade knife would have helped breaking into the meat.
It started off well at The Princess of Shoreditch, but I can't say they kept up with it with our entrees. Perhaps it was getting late and so the consistency began to dwindle a bit, both for execution and service. While the food was overall quite good, there is still some mileage to being great.
I'm still not too sure about these gastropubs: squeezing fine dining upstairs of a cozy, and decidedly noisy, pub; shaky wooden tables cramped closely together with flimsy metallic chairs; a seasonal but very traditional British menu. In my humble opinion, it feels a bit forced and East-London engineered. I didn't catch on with the Ten Bells craze 6 months ago, while I liked Princess d Shoreditch better, it still didn't do it for me. I just have to accept it - these upstairs kitchens aren't for me.
76-78 Paul Street
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