When you think of a market, what are the first things that spring to mind? For me it’s fresh produce, knowledgeable suppliers and a sense that you are experiencing something new, or at least out of the ordinary, so I was intrigued on hearing about Western Road’s newest foodie offering, MARKET, and had my reservations on whether these three criteria would translate into the restaurant world.
Leading to the door like an organic red carpet, a patch of faux grass on the pavement outside was the first indication that this was a restaurant hoping to stand out. The bold green façade bore the restaurant’s name using the original sign from Camden Market, and was striking compared to the neighbouring cafes and to its predecessor, Graze. Inside, the small space had an atmosphere of intimacy whilst remaining airy and clean, thanks to the gleaming green tiles, uncluttered décor and pleasant breeze from the open windows.
Promptly provided with water and a basket of seeded and rye breads, we settled down at our chosen table to study the menu. The main focus was clearly on the small plates, which were divided into sections depending on how they had been sourced. These included ‘From the Fishmonger’, ‘From the Butcher’ and ‘From the Greengrocer’, with a separate section offering reasonably priced main dishes such as the Market Beef Burger (£12) or Pumpkin Gnocchi, Caramelised Cauliflower, Sage (£12.50). This layout hinted that the suppliers themselves were of primary importance at Market, which was confirmed by owner Kate’s plan to put portraits of her main suppliers up on the wall.
We had had the pleasure of meeting some of the people behind the produce the night before at the resturant’s launch party, including Blackdown Spirits, Ridgeview Wine and La Cave a Fromage, which is Market’s most local supplier, situated just a few doors down.
Head chef Mark offered to prepare us a selection of small plates while we enjoyed the ambience and our first drinks. My companion chose the Bedlam Pilsner, a smooth and light craft beer from local supplier Bedlam Brewery, and for me, our friendly waitress recommended her favourite white wine, the delicious Chenin Blanc (£4.50).
The first dish to arrive was a bowl of vibrant Padron Peppers (£4) tossed in sweet paprika and salt, which were crisp, fresh and perfect to snack on before the richer courses arrived. Next up was the crunchy and nutty Broccoli, Kale and Tahini (£5) and the Goats Cheese Churros with White Truffle Honey (£4) which tasted just as too-good-to-be-true as they sound. The light dough and creamy cheese were perfectly salted, and with the compliment of the truffle honey, and set off a subtle but indulgent sweetness.
I thought the meal had already peaked after the delightful churros, but there were even more treats to come that would rival this ingenious dish. The Spanish omelette-inspired Crashed Eggs! (£8) was packed with potato, Manchego cheese and Padron peppers, and followed by one of the evening’s specials, the rich Red Mullet, Spiced Aubergine and Piquillo Pepper Salsa (£8).
Venison Carpaccio, Plum and Hazelnut (£6.50) was a work of art on the plate and stood out for more than one reason. The wafer thin meat was a rich pink colour, wonderfully tender and delicate and its flavour was remarkable, giving off a satisfying hint of gin thanks to the juniper berries used during its lengthy preparation. The heartiest dish of the meal, Beer Braised Ribs (£8) came next, and comprised of melting ribs, chorizo, peppers and potato in a flavoursome broth of Bedlam and Brighton beers.
After this feast of inventive and consistently impressive dishes, our drinks were topped up and our desserts prepared. The lights had been dimmed throughout the evening to coincide with darkness falling, a subtle way of keeping diners comfortable and cosy for the duration of their meal. Likewise, the staff were warm, chatty and attentive when clearing plates and making sure we had all we needed.
We soon polished off our puddings; the Baked Popcorn Cheesecake (£7) and Blackberry and Lemon Mess (£6.50). The cheesecake was of perfect New York-style consistency and the praline and popcorn that decorated it added a welcome hint of salt and variations in texture. The Lemon Mess was also very sweet, perhaps a little too much so for me, but my dining partner found it perfect and devoured the blackberry sorbet and jelly, vanilla cream and meringue filled with lemon curd.
The food at Market speaks for itself; the quality of the ingredients and the skill in their cooking are unmistakable. But the concept is perhaps the most refreshing element. as long as it stays true to this bold ethos, there is no reason for Market not to enjoy the huge success it deserves.