Mixing up the medicine at Villiers Terrace

Posted on May 9, 2010

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Crouch End is seen by many Londoners as an island suburb, separated from the rest of the city by the lack of a Tube station. How do they live, cut off from civilisation like that? Well, the truth is that the lack of a Tube helps to preserve the laid back atmosphere of this North London suburb, and allows little secrets like Villiers Terrace to be kept quiet.

Formally the Princess Alexandra, Villiers Terrace has been transformed by the opulent decor of designer Paul Daly. Here well worn chesterfields nestle next to the exposed brickwork of the open fireplace. The gilded edged walls are decorated in rich, black and gold floral print wallpaper and the bar makes a bold statement, clad in warm circles of cut wood.

For when the sun shines, there are two outdoor seating areas. The deck captures the sun all day, and, despite the view of the petrol station across the way, is actually a rather nice spot to relax. The terrace off the main dining area is a secluded grotto of wrought iron tables and chairs, rough hewn wooden seating and potted ferns and grasses, all hemmed in from the street by high bamboo fences. Villiers is certainly a great place to make the best of the British summer, and a perfect spot to while away an afternoon soaking up the sun and the G&Ts.

At the bar, the cocktail list plays a strong hand of traditional classics from £6.50, including solid staples such as the Mojito, Old Fashioned and Negroni. At £7.50 there is a good list of Martinis too, with a Vesper on offer, the traditional Gordon’s replaced here by Tanquerey. Premium cocktails at £8 are well though out, with the Ten of Hearts and the Forbidden Fruit as standouts. Order a simple G&T and you might well be asked for you preference of gin. This level of professionalism is seldom seen outside of dedicated cocktail bars, and it is most welcome.

The wine list has a distinctly French bent, with prices ranging £3.50-£5.70 a glass or from £14.70 to £60 a bottle. The reds offer a beautiful robust 2006 Malbec from Cahors, however, if your palate prefers something fruitier with fewer tannins, I’d recommend the 2006 Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If sitting out in the sunshine with a glass of white appeals, try the crisp and bitey Pinot Grigio, or a bottle of the 2008 Picpoul de Pinet, which is a perfect accompanyment to seafood and salads.

What is missing here though are the ales. With so many wonderful traditional ales available, it is almost a crime to have Fosters on tap. However, for Belgian beer lovers, Hoegaarden is available and Leffe is to be found amoungst the bottled beers.

In the dining room, head chef Ben Lindsay offers up traditional British fare, sourcing the finest seasonal ingredients from local producers.The food is fantastic, and reasonably priced to boot. Starters from £6.50 to £13 include pan fried scallops with bacon and parsnip puree, ox cheek with tomato & horseradish gnocchi, and ham hock terrine with green bean chutney and toast. Mains from £10.50 to £16.50 are great value and feature staples such as rib eye steak with thick cut chips and aioli, as well as more adventurous dishes, such as pan fried calf’s liver with bubble & squeak and bacon. There is also a very decent set lunch menu, and a Sunday lunch is highly recommended.

Overall, Villiers Terrace remains one of North London’s premier bar restaurants and is a pleasant place to let your afternoon slip into the evening. Now where’s that Tube?

Dublo

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Posted in: Food & Drink, Reviews