020 7359 2888
Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EG
Restaurant recommendations should, in theory, mean you get a great meal because someone else has tried and tested the formula and given it the thumbs up, but the experience can be disappointing for all sorts of reasons: the recommender’s palate is somewhat less discriminating than your own; you choose different dishes that haven’t been as competently executed; or your expectations have simply been so unrealistically inflated that the restaurant never really stood a chance.
You could argue that Frederick’s suffered such a fate. There is no denying that Frederick’s is a classy joint. The trendy bar looks like a great place to relax with a drink or meet friends. The dining area is elegant – simply furnished with tasteful modern art – whilst the Garden Room, with its high glass roof, and the adjacent patio are perfect for summer dining.
Although there is nothing revolutionary, the menu reads well. Starters feature familiar couplings including roasted red pepper stuffed with goats cheese and basil (£7.50), melon with Parma ham (£8.50), chicken liver and foie gras parfait with toasted walnut bread and grape chutney (£7). We were tempted by roast scallop in the shell with soft herb, prawn and crème fraiche risotto (£8.50) and sweet chilli roast crispy chicken with spring onion and cucumber (£7), but opted for a generous bowl of clam chowder with chorizo (£6.50), served as it is in America with cream crackers, and the mushroom tart (£7) – light pastry encasing smooth mushroom pate and surprisingly sweet artichoke, topped with a perfectly poached egg and creamy hollandaise.
Mains are strong on fish, with a choice between fresh and smoked salmon fishcake (£14.50), baked halibut with croutons, basil mash and spicy ratatouille (£17), monkfish with clams, chorizo, linguine, Pernod and tomato (£16) or roasted wild sea bass with Bombay potatoes, spinach and mint yoghurt (£17). It was no surprise then that the raviolo of scallop, salmon and lobster with asparagus and chive crème fraiche (£17) was the favourite of the mains we ordered, its deceptive simplicity allowing the flavours of the high quality ingredients to shine through. The only complaint was the stinginess of the portion – at £17 it should look bigger than a starter. However, more substantial dishes of cumin roast guinea fowl breast with tomato risotto and tatziki (£16) and cured shank of lamb with minted peas and roast onion (£15) were pronounced bland and far too salty respectively – which just goes to show that size isn?t everything.
Despite the inability of a serviceable bottle of Muscadet (£13) from the international wine list to disguise the shortcomings of the mains, we finished on a high note with coconut and pineapple baked Alaska and tarte tatin with Calvados cream (both £5). Tarte tatin is one of my favourite desserts, so it is not lightly that I say that it was one of the best specimens I have ever had. Cheese (Manouri, Stilton, Manchego and Wensleydale) come thoughtfully paired with honey, grape chutney, quince jelly and eccles cake respectively.
But this wasn’t enough to eradicate the slight disappointment we felt at the variable mains and indifferent service (at this pricey restaurant and at 12.5% service, we expect better). Restaurant reviews are recommendations of sorts – so don’t expect too much and you won’t be let down.