120 Park Road
Crouch End has been creeping its way towards gentility for so long, that it’s easy to forget it was once a bastion of bad charity shops and old men’s bars. Villier’s Terrace is one such pub that’s recently made the transition from slightly dodgy boozer to slick gastro-pub, presumably to make it more appealing to Crouch End’s increasing population of moneyed middle class types.
It was buzzing on the hot Thursday night that we visited, with a mixture of 30-something locals who seemed mainly drawn to the handsome outdoor terrace. It’s a shame if they were just there for the drinks though, as some of the food was astonishingly good.
Although we were seated in the sweltering indoor dining area, the starters soon chilled us out. English asparagus with a deep fried poached egg and Hollandaise sauce was a delight. The vegetables had just the right amount of bite, the egg was cooked to perfection (and surprisingly light despite being deep fried), whilst the Hollandaise was wickedly buttery.
My dining partner opted for the devilled duck liver, pancetta and endive on toast. It too was a triumph. The pancetta was an unnecessary addition, which got lost in the liver and gravy, but the duck liver was melt in the mouth delicate and could easily have been a main dish.
After a triumphant start, our main course was a slight come down. My grilled lemon sole with anchovy, capers and samphire was overwhelmingly salty. It came alone too as the side dish of peppery baby leaf and parmesan salad that the waitress assured me would go with it, didn’t.
The chap went for free range corn fed chicken, morels and crushed potatoes. This was also served without any greens, which felt like a bit of a liberty with the dish priced at £14. The meat was tender and moist but sadly the taste of the morels got lost in the dish.
Fortunately, desserts put a cat-that-got-the-cream smile back on our faces. In my case, Chantilly, served like a scoop of ice-cream with a mango and passion fruit Pavlova. The mango was a touch unripe but otherwise a delicious dish.
The chap ordered chocolate parfait served with poached cherries and an almond biscuit. The parfait was cool and dense, the slightly sour cherries lifting it from the realms of death by chocolate, and the biscuit a cheeky addition. Goodness me it was good, and well worth its £5 price tag.
Drinks-wise, we went for the house white, always a good indication of a restaurant’s intentions. Not overpowering on the taste buds, it made for a subtle partner to our food and served icy cold on a hot summer’s night, it went down a treat.
When we took our coffees out on the terrace (still buzzing at near closing time on a school night), we reflected on Villier’s Terrace. It’s a great neighbourhood gastro-pub that we’re pleased to have almost on our doorstep. If it can settle down to that role, and lower its prices just a touch, then it could be practically perfect.
A meal for two with wine and service will set you back by around £75.
Villier’s Terrace: 120 Park Road, Crouch End, London, N8 8JP. Tel: 020 8245 6827
Reviewer: Georgina Terry