Monday, 3 March 2008
The Engineer, Primrose Hill
As should be perfectly apparent to any regular readers of this blog, I am no photographer. It's pushing the limits of my meagre ability just taking an in-focus shot of an immobile plate of food three feet from my face, so whilst for many people a trip to London Zoo would provide a bounty of photogenic opportunity, the best I could manage was a slightly blurry shot of a group of lazy lemurs, barely recognisable behind thick chicken wire. I do possess other skills, however - not least the ability to sniff out a gastropub within half a mile, and so as the queue for the zoo stretched halfway down Albert Road at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, I suggested we have lunch first and give the crowds a chance to dissipate.
The Engineer is a handsome, rather eclectically decorated pub in the handsome, eclectic neighbourhood of Primrose Hill. Staff were cheery and slightly hippified, in keeping with the area, and the menu followed suit, containing a variety of standard gastropub ingredients (chicken breast, cod, lamb) served with some less-than-standard sides (harissa, bok choi and mash, barley and grape salad). It was tempting stuff, and our rickety little corner table was beginning to feel very much like home as I sipped on a pint of Hook Norton ale and gazed out over the well-heeled crowd.
It being only lunchtime, and mindful of the looming £15 zoo entrance fee (that place goes up by £5 every year, I swear), we had one course each. As you can see, my lamb fillet was nothing if not a pretty plate of food, coloured by pomegranete seeds and flecks of chilli, and the meat itself was rich and tasty with nicely roasted potatoes. But the barley and grape salad was, as you might have already decided, perhaps just a little into 'weird' territory. Not quite enough to stop me wolfing down the whole lot, obviously, but nothing I would go out of my way to recreate at home or order again somewhere else. I need dishes like this though occasionally, just to be reassured that some people are brave enough to try new flavour combinations, otherwise you'd just end up being offered the same stuff everywhere. So well done The Engineer - your barley and grape salad is wrong, but don't stop trying.
We did eventually make it to the zoo, and despite the price rise it's still one of my favourite ways of spending a sunny afternoon. In summer they have a hugely overpriced BBQ set up near the penguins, serving many of the animals you're paying to go and see roasted inside a sesame seed bun. It's a slightly surreal experience, and one guaranteed to set your moral compass spinning, so I would recommend following your own gastro radar some place else if you're need of sustenance. There's no shortage of options, and I can thoroughly recommend the Engineer at the very least.