Words by Felicity Spector. Pictures by Jared (@foodstinct)
It all sounded so very now: a north London restaurant which grows vegetables on its own Buckinghamshire farm. Even the name – Heirloom – conjured up visions of specially nurtured tomatoes and purple carrots with clods of dirt still clinging on.
I’d seen the daily changing menu, though, with the promise of home made treacle loaf with greengage compote shining like a beacon at the end. I couldn’t wait to book a table.
The first thing which strikes you is the calmness of this grown-up space: tables not too wedged together, a noise level which allows for proper conversation. Bookshelves, along the wall overlooking the bar – bearing a single volume: the NOMA cookbook.
My friends had already arrived by the time I got there, following a scenic bus journey taking in not one, but two prisons. Always a treat. They’d started without me – apparently the Winterdale cheese fritters were excellent. I had to believe them.
Some excellent sourdough bread and salted butter arrived, and we decided to order every vegetarian dish on the menu to share – on the night we went, there were seven. Courgette fritters were fine, perked up by a good slug of herb pesto, and a dish of pineapple and zebra tomatoes were sweet and juicy, scattered with some slightly medicinal hyssop.
Best of all was a plate of buttery roasted leeks with a puddle of coddled egg and some roasted walnuts: a gently warming, comforting dish which we mopped up with the rest of the bread.
Next – a couple of larger plates – a bowl of vibrantly green barley stew with parsley root and peas: a not-quite risotto which was thick and hearty and felt as good for you as it looked.
With it, another dish of roasted celeriac and trompette de la mort mushrooms, fat ceps and some dollops of goats curd – a triumph of a vegetarian dish. A side dish of champ didn’t last long either: lots of butter, soft potato, plenty of greens.
And then – the prospect of that treacle loaf. It didn’t photograph well – but what a match with that sticky greengage compote, incredibly moist and not too sweet: there was clotted cream too – like a cream tea on steroids.
Another dessert, saffron poached pears with crumbled shortbread and more of that cream was more delicate, but with no compromise on flavour.
There are biodynamic wines on offer and a selection of cocktails – the kitchen even rustled up an off-menu whisky sour.
the kitchen even rustled up an off-menu whisky sour
Nothing felt rushed: service was friendly, and there’s a cool but relaxed neighbourhood feel. The sort of place you’d be lucky to have at the end of your street – and a place worth a scenic bus journey across town, for the cooking, and the care and respect that Heirloom clearly has for its home-grown ingredients. Just save room for that treacle loaf too. I can promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Felicity Spector (@FelicitySpector) is deputy programme editor, Channel 4 News and writes for numerous UK food blogs. She’s known an uncanny ability to document cultural happenings seen from the 91 bus.
Visit @HeirloomN8, it’s so very now
35 Park Road, Crouch End, London N8 8TE
Phone: 020 8348 3565
Reviewer: Felicity, August 22, 2014