58 Penton Street
Islington is surely becoming the gastro-pub epicentre of London having been further sanctified with the wonderful addition of The Compass. Let's hope the locals here know how lucky they are! Formerly The Salmon and Compass, the pub was renovated earlier this year and given the gastro pub make-over, with lots of dark wooden chairs and tables, an open kitchen, chandeliers, blackboard and a deep crimson-painted ceiling. The dining and bar area seamlessly merge together and with the subdued lighting and oh-so-friendly staff, the whole place feels warm, cosy and welcoming.
I’m not surprised the place was busy when we visited on a Monday night. A mixture of families, couples and friends were all huddled around tables enjoying lovely gamey dishes. Looking at the menu, there was an obvious nod to French cuisine but the real emphasis was on top-notch seasonal British produce. Currently ‘tis the season to be game, so the obvious choice for a starter was a wonderful woody terrine densely packed with rabbit, hare and pheasant. It was superbly paired with a bowl of luscious house-made rhubarb and sage chutney that had me talking about the culinary brawn of chutney for a good twelve minutes – you have to admit, that’s a pretty long time to talk about chutney at dinner. But my friend didn’t mind one bit about my rambles, as she devoured her classic dish of scallops and black pudding. I continued my game venture with a main course of pheasant with intensely sweet honey-roasted parsnips, potato fondant and a silky red wine jus. All washed down with a glass of chocolaty smooth Malbec. My friend tucked into two juicy hunks of lamb rump with blushing cores, accompanied by an ingenious beetroot gratin and an intense mushroom duxelle. She was so engaged with her meal she forgot about her side order of chips, which some might say are the gauging factor of a good gastro pub (I tasted them and they were pretty decent). Both the dishes were not only beautifully presented, but were simple combinations of good quality ingredients that offered an aspect of Autumn worth getting excited about.
For dessert there was only a choice of three and so we ordered chocolate fondant and caramel bread and butter pudding, which took nearly 45 minutes to arrive. In fact that was my only niggle with the whole evening, which started off very well with attentive staff but as it got busier, became a little more haphazard. With only two chefs in the kitchen, one waitress and a manager rushing around jovially, I couldn’t help but feel they were obviously understaffed. Anyway back to desserts. When they finally arrived, I was green with envy at my friends chocolate fondant that was gloriously collapsing with the heave of thick molten chocolate longing to escape its centre. My bread and butter pudding was unfortunate in comparison, as it lacked any sweetness, which is pretty essential in a dessert. So I pushed it to the side and dove into the fondant, which vanished within seconds and left us resisting the temptation to lick the plate clean. God bless the French. Even though Islington is brimming with gastro pubs, The Compass definitely stands out as a worthy competitor with it’s tasty purposeful menu, ultra friendly staff and breezy atmosphere – I for one can’t wait to go back.
A three course meal for two with wine will cost £70.
**Reviewer:** Leila Sarraf