Seagrass opens up Wednesday to Saturday evenings from 7pm taking over the premises of the old pie and mash shop, Manzes. It sits on the run down Chapel Market in Islington and is a wash away from anywhere you would expect to be sitting down for a three-course meal, but after all this is Islington. They operate only one menu, three courses for £30.
Loaded with our wines and being the first to arrive we were greeted with a warm welcome as the restaurant operates a BYOB with free corkage, which is great as it keeps down the cost and means you can bring along your favourite tipple, or two. Although the place looks like a typical pie and mash shop its floor to wall tiles and mirrors gives it a nautical feel, which works great as the menu is mainly seafood.
An amuse bouche of smoked mackerel pate was offered which was very pleasant and was pasted onto a nice slice of soda bread with lots of pepper and a good splashing of olive oil for the soda bread to soak up.
There were two starters on the menu, one fish, and one bird. The duck breast with ratatouille, crispy Parma ham and basil oil was slightly on the small side. The duck was cooked well, pink in the middle but skin crisp on the outside and the ratatouille was well seasoned. The Parma ham I felt was simply decorative and the basil oil was a slightly odd accompaniment to the dish but was still enjoyable, I could have just done with it being slightly larger.
The smoked salmon and crayfish tails with cucumber and dill salad and a citrus dressing was slightly larger and more filling then the duck, but it was a very simple dish. Easily thrown together and something I feel could be easily copied back at home, the dish showed no flare or creativity. It was a light refreshing starter and the ingredients tasted were fresh, but unfortunately, that was about it.
Three main course to choose from now, and I didn’t pick the Cornish crab, which keeps passing me and it looks delicious. Venison fillet with triple cooked chips and red currant jus swiftly arrived at the table. Firstly, I must say these did not look like triple cooked chips, but look and taste like chip shop chips, just a little bit crispier and covered in black spots, which makes me think I had an ill bunch of potatoes. The venison which sat on a watery bed of spinach was cooked medium rare and very juicy but was either not seasoned enough, or not at all as I had to do this myself, this again was a rather small portion so its lucky I ordered a side of the delicious Seagrass slaw.
The pan fried king scallops with mash and sauce vierge was delicious, cooked beautifully and had a lovely soft texture but managed to take on some of the butter they were cooked in which gave them a slight crisp browning. There were far too many scallops on my plate though and the small dollop of mash that sat in the middle of the dish was just not enough, I would have been happy to have less of them and more mash. The sauce vierge just lifted the dish into summer and was great to dollop the scallops into. A lovely dish.
Not being extremely full with the surprise size dishes that came out dessert did make us chuckle. Sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce. I must admit it was delicious, very rich and moist but not overtly sweet. The size of it was the funny part and only took two mouthfuls to eat and it was gone.
While the dainty sticky toffee pudding had been demolished, the cheese boards were only a tenth of the way through being eaten. Three cheeses were on the board, blue, cheddar and brie; the brie had not had any time at room temperature and was straight out of the fridge, cold and slightly hard. The chutney had a nice depth of flavour and good acidity.
While Seagrass uses some nice ingredients I don’t feel it was worth the £30 asking price, courses were slightly on the small side or outbalanced and kept very safe in terms of cooking as there were no signs of real creativity. Not sure I would hurry back anytime soon.