New Opening: Hodgepodge Crouch Hill
Written by: Tavia Davies
Offering modern British cuisine with a smokey twist, Crouch Hill’s newest contender to its foodie scene, Hodge Podge, is all minimal styling and hearty yet inventive dishes – a mish mash (or hodge podge) of ingredients that just seem to work together. The dining spot has taken up residency next to the likes of Max’s Sandwiches and Pizza X Drink on this burgeoning corner of the Stroud Green and Crouch End border. Its unfussy but comfortable surroundings welcomed us inside on a warm October evening, fronted with wall-to-wall windows, through which tired commuters on the W7 enviously peered at us whilst we ate. Sucks to be them.
We started with a devilishly tasty concoction of bourbon, yuzu sake, blackberry puree and apple juice all expertly poured into a chilled glass. Getting the reviewer slightly tipsy at the beginning of the meal is always wise, the clever devils. This liquid nirvana was complimented with a salty side of massive, beefy olives, which were an absolute joy for an olive fiend like myself, who must usually settle for cheap pepper-stuffed jars of olives. I should really stop buying mine from Tesco or I’ll become as bitter as my supermarket olives.
Needless to say, after that brilliantly auspicious introduction we could barely contain our excitement for the meal ahead. So much so we peeked into the kitchen at the back and spotted the huge Japanese style Dragon Kamado Barbecue smoker alongside head chef/owner Simon Hodge (his actual name is Hodge, this makes us happy) was purposely setting some plates on fire, as you do. It was then that we knew that we really were in safe, if a little charred, hands. Anyone who takes smoking that seriously is a-ok in our books.
Returning to our chunky wooden seats, we were served a most heavenly creation; a mussel broth with warm fennel salad and taramasalata on toast. Those mussels. Texture like butter, taste like the sea. But a more ethereal sea, if you know what I mean? You probably won’t until you taste it yourself. Floating on top of this glorious broth, much like a boat in the sea, was a cheeky slab of toast slathered in tangy taramasalata, soaking up all that mussel-y goodness.
Next up, we tried the barbecued baby chicken with burnt corn chowder and nduja. After greedily cutting into this rather sexy looking chicken, I was a little dismayed. It was pink inside. But, aha! It was supposed to be pink inside. Our lovely waiters explained that, due to some very scientific-y things about myoglobin and proteins or something, when you smoke a chicken over a long period of time it creates a pink tinge to the meat – much like the smoke ring on a brisket. So please, don’t be phased by the pink inside, it’s a great dish. Plus, there was a cheeky bit of liver hiding inside the carcass. Bonus.
In the name of serious journalism we had to get desert. There was choux on the menu and The Great British Bake Off just had patisserie week with a 24 choux bun signature, making our foray into a third course all the more necessary. It was, for want of a better phase, bloody gorgeous. I no longer have bake envy watching GBBO as I now wholeheartedly know what a Berry-worthy choux bun tastes like. Elegantly stuffed inside these peanut topped, chocolate glazed, fluffy little cases were a black tahini and baked caramel cream. Oh the subtleties, oh the character of this puffed up perfect parcel! It deserves a Hollywood handshake.
Hodgepodge is open for business every evening on the weekdays and for lunch on the weekend, ready and waiting to dance across your taste buds like Debbie McGee doing the Charleston on Strictly (I ran out of GBBO gags). Their soft launch is this weekend, offering 20% off, head over to their adorably illustrated website to book your table.
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