The second outpost from the people that brought you 100 Hoxton is a bigger, more velvet-boothed venture, sitting at the Union Chapel end of Upper Street.
In sync with its Hoxton older brother, the menu from Head Chef Francis Puyat’s sharing plates along East meets Middle East lines, part Asian fusion, part harissa-laced heat. Think preserved lemon yoghurt and tahini dishes rubbing up against tamarind relish and wasabi sauce. The Yaojen Chuang interior’s no less high-design, all sleek modernist lines, dark wood polished to a heavy shine and low lighting everywhere.
High design but relatively low prices, if you time it right. Lunchboxes are £5, a set lunch menu’s £15 and at dinner you can share five dishes between two for £30 – one from each of the sections: vegetable, seafood, meat, sweet, and a miscellaneous maybe-side-dish section ranging from parsnips, Chinese sausage, chilli prawns and fried egg.
It’s the bar that’s really going to kick up your bill here, less because it’s pricey than because it’s compulsive, with a cocktail list you could easily triple your food spend with. But like they say in N1, you regret the Cherry Coke Old Fashioneds you don’t have more than the ones you do. Pretty sure they say that.
And cherry Coke. Old Fashioned. This is 90% of my childhood fantasies about what being a grown-up would be like, come to life. But be warned that however much the cocktails pander to your 12 year old self, the volume of whisky in mine and the volume of everything in Ridgers’s negroni are pretty adult.
With the cocktails, decent-value wine and the Almeida Theatre a street away, you can imagine treating this as a bar, never getting further than the high tables at the front of the restaurant and the drinks list.
It’d be a schoolboy error. The crushed new potatoes and parsnip dish we order kind of indifferently – mostly to make it look like we care about things that aren’t meat – are actually right at the top of reasons to visit 100 Islington. Impressive achievement for a little pan of root vegetables, but these ones are soaked in chilli and garlic, crispy at the edges and phenomenal all over.
None of the other dishes have that element of surprise, because only a fool doesn’t expect good things from Chargrilled lamb belly, aubergine, burnt goat’s cheese, pine nuts and harissa. It’s as rich as it sounds, the harissa a charge of heat that stops it from being nothing but denseness from here to the horizon.
This is the only one that’s any real competition for the new potatoes – though my friend’s making doe-eyes at the braised octopus, served with garam masala carrots and roasted butternut squash. Everything we have is, at its lowest ebb, weirdly moreish – like the burnt aubergine salad scattered with nuts and slices of Granny Smith apple, or the fried duck, with mushrooms and kimchi – and at best, dishes you could just order five times over and ignore the rest of the menu with no regrets.
So it’s nice as a bar, nicer as a restaurant – some of the sleekness of Islington, some of the experimentalism of its Hoxton roots. And potatoes you’ll wake up wanting all over again, for breakfast.
100 Islington, 270, Upper Street, N1 2UQ. 0207 2261118. Website.