UPPER GLAS: THIS PUN'S A KEEPER
You can always tell who is posting on this blog. If it is HP, his title is alway an obscure lyric. If it is me, then it is usually a painful pun.
So, I was bound to be attracted to a restaurant that had the temerity to use the most excruciating pun possible as a name. Hats off to upper Glas.
Relocated from a very successful 18 month stint opposite Neal’s yard in Borough Market, Upper Glas is now in the location that was, up until recently that Islington Stalwart, Lola’s
Lola’s was an odd place. More up and down than a manic depressive on a pogo stick it went through chefs as often as I do apology cards. The scene of some decent meals and some dreadful meals, it finally closed its doors a couple of months ago.
I had passed the site every day at lunchtime, but seen little movement until Thursday night when I saw the lights on and much activity. A “ friends and family” night it transpired with the official opening being last night. So, I booked a table for two at 9pm.
The owners, who had been much in evidence the night before were conspicuous by their absence when we arrived and it showed as no one even bothered to look in our direction as we waited to be greeted. We waited and waited and waited a bit more until finally, someone noticed us standing there and showed us to a table.
They explained that the owners had a vacation booked in Africa and had left that morning. Well deserved, I am sure but on the opening day of your new venture, a tad weird, no?
The table configuration is weird too with large tables being separated into seating for two by the use of cloths and candles so you sit bench style but they try to make you feel like you don’t. It doesn’t work and I suspect they will find themselves having to change it very soon.
So, so far so bad and I was not sure that it was going to get any better. I was wrong. I am pleased to say that this turned out to be one of my meals of the year with one of the dishes of the year.
The predominantly Swedish menu is split into hot and cold dishes with the cold choices being small plates, mainly of fish at around £4-5 with the hot dishes of meat, fish and seafood being around £10-13.
There is a small wine list and a good selection of Nordic beers and Aquavits.
After sampling a couple of beers, which we used two wash down a large amount of splendid homemade crisp bread, we ordered five small plates to begin. Each was, in its own way excellent.
Beer battered beetroot was so much better than it sounds and topped with a thyme and walnut foam that actually had a taste.
Spiced Matjes herring were toothsome and smokey ( apparently laid out to “age” on sandlewood we were told ) but not quite as delicious as small strips of herring marinated in vodka and citrus which gave it a real kick.
Prawns in a dill mayonnaise on toast was, probably, the most standard dish but we still wiped the plate clean.
Best of all, cured reindeer meat on top of a “panacotta” of wild mushrooms with lingonberries. A really tremendous dish with the dense dark meat being offset by the creamy but rich mushrooms. We almost came to blows over the last sliver of meat. It was that good.
The hot dishes were equally as good. A pike perch came with a herb crust and was served with meaty chanterelles. The perch was cooked perfectly and was as good a piece of fish as I have tasted this year. The Hasselback potatoes were the one duff note. Tough as old boots and we told them so.
Best of all though and now set in my memory as one of “those” dishes that you dream about in quiet moments was a West coast casserole of mussel and fish with grilled crayfish. How can I describe it? A bowl with,perhaps, the best seafood sauce I have ever tasted, filled with chunks of perfectly prepared fish and mussels ( a few still in the shell ) and topped with a crayfish with the sweetest tasting flesh I can ever recall. The first bite brought out the sort of squeal of pleasure I have tried and failed to extract from any number of girlfriends over the years and each bite following bite was better than the last.
I am not ashamed to say that I wiped the plate almost clean with my finger and was sorely tempted to pick it up and lick it so good was the sauce. For £10 a pop I am going to stick my neck out and say this was, arguably the best and best value thing I have eaten this year. I recommend you try it and try it soon.
After that it was bound to be a bit of an anti climax. We shared a blueberry mousse thing that was a bit like a Christmas cake whizzed up and put in a martini glass. HP liked it. I did not.
Throughout the meal, we stuck to beer and a few types of Aquavit all of which came in frozen glasses. Very good they were too.
They are offering a 50% reduction on food for the first couple of weeks which meant the bill in tip came to about £80 which was excellent value. It would still be good value even without the deduction.
The service was very sweet and Scandinavian. Although, the young women all seemed to be out way past their bedtime. Without a proper front of house though it did seem a bit rudderless and, while that was fine with less than 20 people in the place, it could be an issue if it begins to fill up.
I hope it does fill up and stays full for a long time to come as, make no mistake, this is a very good restaurant offering food worthy of superlatives at reasonable prices with charming service and in decent surroundings. Isn’t that what restaurants are meant to do after all?
It seems London can learn a lesson from our Nordic chums