THE COMPASS: BEATING IT
A few weeks ago I turned up at a new Martin Bros pub in Chelsea and more or less immediately turned on my heels and walked out. The beef: well in my opinion they’d finessed the idea of a gastropub to such an extent that the place in question (no idea of its name now) seemed like some sort of parody of the genre. Any right-thinking person would be put off gastropubs for life if they weren’t already.
Luckily for you, gentle reader, DH are made of sterner stuff and the news of yet another gastro opening in the nabe had us rushing up there to bring you the real skinny. Unfortunately, HS is on a mission to fit into his Bruno Mesh T-Shirt that his fiancé bought him for his birthday, so when I say ‘us’ it was in fact just moi.
A few cocktails to the good and I wandered down to The Compass situated at the Eastern end of the ever-so-slightly-grotty Chapel Market, home to a proper market that still keeps it real (I’m always agent number two btw). I don't think I’ve ever visited The Compass in it's previous incarnation but the big barn-like space has been spruced up a bit, a small open kitchen installed along with a few other bits and bobs that only people of the middle class tribe would immediately recognise as the signs of a gastropub makeover.
Ok, it's another chain (the owners also own The Green in Clerkenwell) but thankfully there's a complete absence of overt theming. There's four real ales on tap - I had a particularly nice IPA from Whitstable - and the menu looked a bit more interesting than the dismal quotidian norm.
Proper bar snacks are becoming de rigeur for palces these days and the kitchen here has a go. The Scotch Egg was room temperature but would have been improved by being cooked to order – always the sign of a kitchen with serious intent. The Egg was overcooked and the Pork lacked the deep porkiness of some of the better examples. The pastry was nice and flaky on my Black Pudding Sausage Roll but it was a bit cold in the centre. So not up to say Bull & Last standards but plus marks for making a valiant attempt. I suspect going at lunchtime may be the wise move here when the snacks have just been made.
A starter proper of Snails was great, though. The Snails had been braised and lay on a smooth, garlic puree through which some parsley - also pureed - had been run. The garlic, presumably roasted, had none the pungency or bitterness of the raw bulb and had cooked to a beautiful sweetness. Lovely dish.
Slip Soles were two small fish that had been cooked in the Spanish manner i.e. simply grilled. The fish were very fresh and the grill marks added another dimension to the flavour. There was some peppery watercress on the side and a tart tartare sauce. Chips appeared homemade and looked the part. Unfortunately, before their final frying they'd dried out too much making the end result a bit desiccated and mealy in texture.
Puds are kept pretty simple and an Eton Mess was a pleasant change from helado. It was well made: light and tasty with an excellent meringue. Coffee wasn't bad either.
Service was spot on and there were plenty of smiles all round which I quite like (no I do, really).
Sometimes with new openings that are part of a chain I fear the worst but The Compass transcends the dire norm in London and is well worth a punt and with a few tweaks here and could be even better - although even in its current form I’d be happy to go back. Fingers crossed they don't decide to do a Martin and open any more.