In London, there are geographical faultlines, places that straddle different areas that have no distinct name but are in between categorised boroughs. For instance, what is the name of the area around Old Kent Road between Elephant and Castle and Bermondsey? South Southwark? North Camberwell? I honestly don’t know. Part of London’s appeal is that places bleed into one another, and the city is generally one big amorphous mess.
An interesting part of the city is the area between Highbury & Islington and Hackney. Culturally, it’s between two poles with the gentle charm of Islington breaching into the ragged chic of Dalston and Haggerston. It is possible to establish an equidistant point between both areas, a place where people in chinos and blazers mix with those attired in skinny jeans and rocking ironic takes on ironic haircuts. This place is the Alwyne Castle, which manages not only a blended clientele but can boast a mixture of a traditional English pub with dining facilities and an outdoor barbecue.
So far, so north London gastropub. The question is whether the food is worth the visit. My companion started with the salt and pepper squid with lime mayonnaise whilst I picked the mushrooms on toast, which came with a generous helping of stilton cream. Both of these were neat, elegant ways to start the meal. There was no scrimping on the amount of squid and the lime mayonnaise was a subtle accompaniment. The mushrooms were not too oily as sometimes can happen and the stilton cream provided stiff flavour to the dish.
For main course, I had the salmon fish cakes with crème fraiche and paprika potato wedges whilst my companion tore into the pork and chorizo burger with caramelised red onion and chips. I was a little disappointed with the fish cakes as there was a slightly flimsy texture to them and it would have been better to have something a bit more exciting than crème fraiche to go with them. On the other hand, my companion was zealous in her appreciation of her burger, enthusing about the potent mix of pork and chorizo.
The meal was rounded off with a salted caramel and chocolate tart with clotted cream and a dark chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Both were pretty accomplished with special mention to the salted caramel and chocolate tart, which was not overbearingly sweet and cloying.
It is hard to get too excited about the Alwyne Castle as it offers an experience you would find in many other parts of London. But it has set its stall out to do standard gastropub fare and it does pretty well.
The Alwyne Castle
83 St Paul’s Road
Tel: 020 7359 7351