When I told ‘E’ that I’d booked a table for my birthday lunch at Mishkin’s, the latest London outpost of Russell Norman and Richard Beatty of Polpo-Spuntino-Polpetto-Da Polpo fame, she was aghast. For one thing, being otherwise engaged, she couldn’t come with me and more importantly, in a departure from the Polpo’esque Italian vibe of the other restaurants, Mishkin’s declares itself as ‘a kind-of Jewish deli with cocktails’. This struck something of a chord, as ‘E’ herself is ‘kind of Jewish and likes cocktails’, who whilst growing up ate most of the menu at her grandmother’s house. To say she was disappointed that she couldn’t come would be an understatement.
So, instead of accompanying me she made herself useful at every opportunity by irritatingly correcting my pronunciation of all the Jewish food and lecturing me at some length….
Which was a complete waste of everyone’s time. I am of course from Essex. I can’t pronounce anything correctly. My monosyllabic estuary accent is stubbornly grafted on to my very soul; so no matter how hard I try ‘Latkes’ will always be ‘LATkaaah’ much to the disgust of ‘E’. Anyway, I digress. I was going, she wasn’t, so there. *Muttley style snigger*
Standing out on the street and admiring the striking black, red and gold retro exterior and then stepping inside it’s immediately obvious that the attention to detail at Mishkin’s is phenomenal, it actually looks like it’s been directly transplanted from New York and replanted in Covent Garden. The black and white chequered floor tiles, the bare brickwork, red leather booths, the lace curtains and the so-awful-it’s-cool 1970’s style wallpaper really are spot on, without it feeling gimmicky and overdone. So, top marks for interior design, but what about the food?
Taking a seat in a booth, it wasn’t long before the somewhat grizzled, motley crew of Neil, Mat and Claire joined me for lunch (just kidding, love you guys).
I’d been told that the chopped chicken liver was particularly good, and yep turns out it was. A generous portion of roughly textured meat with some toasted bread for spreading onto and a pile of cold schmaltzed radish on the side (schmaltz is a Jewish term for rendered chicken fat). I thought it was decent value at £6. The naff ‘granny style’ plate it was served on raised a smile.
Mat ordered a bowl of Cod Cheek Popcorn, scattered with sliced green chillies and presented on an even more outrageous rubbish plate-frilly-doilie combo. I thought this a really good tasty dish, a nice light batter and an interesting use of a relatively underused part of the fish. I liked it a lot.
Neil meanwhile went for Duck Hash, Fried Egg and Liquor. It was tasty enough but nothing remarkable. It is what it is. At £9 I thought the portion size was a bit on the small side.
Claire’s Brick Lane Salt Beef Sandwich was also £9 and I’d say better value than the hash. I’m actually a bit of a salt beef sandwich aficionado, having spent a hellish week serving up hundreds of them, so many in fact it put me off eating them for over a year. This example was really decent actually; one of these and a side dish would make a good lunch. BTW I didn’t get a photo because Claire immediately took a bite before I could get a chance. As you can imagine, I was tres sulky and unimpressed at her sheer impertinence, I mean - how dare she take a bite of her own lunch?
As it was my birthday, and I’m a greedy bastardo, I’d ordered a second dish of Latkes, Smoked Eel, Apple Sauce and Soured Cream. Having absolutely no frame of reference for this, I had no idea if these were good examples of latkes or bad. They were certainly very crispy, so crisp and brittle in fact, whilst eating there was the constant underlying tension caused by the worry that a piece would break off, skittering across the table spattering me with eel and soured cream. This proved to be unfounded in the end, due in no small part to my refined eating skills. Despite perhaps looking a bit messy, this was in fact delicious; I’m quite a fan of eel.
To follow up the cod cheek popcorn, Mat ate a decently constructed radicchio, Stilton, walnut and pear salad, at least that’s what I think it was – I’m going from rubbish memory and perusing the photo. Strangely, it’s not on the menu, maybe it was a daily special. I remember thinking at the time that there seemed to be a generous amount of Stilton scattered through it.
Everyone declined dessert, apart from, unsurprisingly me. Bananas Foster, somehow, I have no idea how, but I actually knew what this was before ordering it. A real retro classic of warm caramelised bananas swimming in a syrupy sauce with a ball of vanilla ice-cream sitting on top. So simple but so frigging amazing. I really, really loved this.
Errrr but what I didn’t love was £5 for a can of London Pride or £4.50 for a can of Red Stripe plonked on the table. The problem with this is, there’s no added value. I look at a can of Red Stripe and know I can buy exactly the same thing at an off license for a quid. Therefore, it really sticks in my craw paying almost 5 times the normal price for it. If it was a pint of draught, then that’s different, you can’t really replicate that at home, but a can of lager for £5? Holy-Moly, my jaw hit the table. Maybe I'm just being naive?
That aside, I really liked Mishkin’s. I had a really nice lunch. As with all the restaurants in the Polpo stable, it’s unusual, a bit hip and cool but it’s also a lot of fun. All credit to Russell and Richard for once again bringing something new to the London dining scene, ‘A kind-of Jewish deli with cocktails’ is an inspired idea. The food is good and the menu incredibly interesting, scanning it now, there are at least a dozen dishes that intrigue me and that I’d love to order. I honestly can’t say that about many restaurant menus.
25 Catherine Street
Telephone: 020 7240 2078