Minutes away from Upper Street on a quiet norf Laandan street, lies the Drapers Arms. Occupying the vaguely uncomfortable spot between public house and restaurant, it's not the sort of place you'd go for relaxing pints on a Sunday, nor is it an all-out Saturday night bank-buster. If you're looking for a mid-week treat, however, the DA is your man.
We get off to a cracking start with a board of complimentary bread and butter. Decent brown bread - good amount of chew, nice crusty crust - and quality unsalted butter. The latter brought debate; I enjoy unsalted butter as it allows me to go nuts with the grinder, Mr Shed prefers his butter avec salt and sans effort. The bread was replenished after we devoured the first lot, a very good sign indeed.
I started with brawn, enjoying the look on (non meat-eater) MrS's face when I explained what it is. A little fridge cold, but loose and silky once it warmed a little, and most importantly tasted of good quality piggy. On it's own I would have found it the teeniest bit under seasoned, but paired with salty, acidic little cornichon, the whole thing was balanced beautifully. More of their lovely bread, this time toasted which helped to warm the terrine. MrS had a bowl of luscious squash and sage soup, very well made, even perhaps turning the tide on my sage hating ways.
We looked to the sea for main courses; gilt head bream and creamed black cabbage, and lemon sole with salsify. Both were PERFECTLY cooked, total A grade skillz. Stonkingly fresh, seasoned well without any heavy handedness, finished with a browned butter and nice crispy skin to boot. My salsify didn't do an awful lot for me, but did provide a nice enough vessel for transporting fish to mouth. A little squeeze of the lemons provided rounded both dishes off nicely.
After his whopping great bream - the size of the beast! -MrS eschewed dessert. A glutton to the end I had a wobbling, unctuous buttermilk pudding, a panacotta in ye olde Englishe if you will. The buttermilk gave a lactic, lemony note which I loved, something I'll be recreating at home. A dependable blackcurrant compote was perfectly nice, but to be honest it was a little superfluous: the pudding was good enough without. A pretty decent double espresso and we're done.
Niggles? Very few. I was a little disappointed to note that they've yet to add any of our superb English plonk to the wine list, especially with the menu championing British stalwarts like brawn, Arbroath smokies, smoked eel and beef and ale pie. If I were to nitpick, the main courses were a little long in arriving, but all is forgiven when the food is so pleasurable, and the dining room was very busy.
The damage: a very reasonable £65, including drinks and excluding service, the latter of which was friendly, and efficient on the whole. It represents, for me, a fairly extravagant mid-week haunt, but one which I hope to revisit in the not-too-distant-future.