A restaurant so good, you’re getting a double dining lowdown. This is a somewhat unprecedented Lady Aga first so brace yourselves for some serious food porn.
Primeur occupies a former greengrocer, former garage site in Highbury - just north of Canonbury, round the corner from Stoke Newington and within walking distance of Finsbury Park.
When the weather is fine, the doors slide open, allowing the 40 seater dining room to bask in balmy sunshine, adding to the light, bright, laid back and welcoming ambience.
The menu changes from lunch to dinner and day to day and you can keep a track of it on their Instagram page. It’s sort of Franglais/ Spanglish offering that’s based simply on what their quality suppliers have to offer that’s particularly good currently.
Chef and management have solid London restaurant heritage: Wright Brothers, Bistroteque, Brunswick House, L’Escargot and Great Eastern Dining Rooms amongst others; impressive culinary CV’s abound but, frankly, they had me at Jesus sausage - these guys know a thing or two about salami and how to slice it.
On the first of our two visits, The Blonde and I sat at the bar, looking into the open plan kitchen, and got stuck into a plate of paper thin tranches of this exemplary melty meaty brilliance. Washed down with a couple of glasses of Vermouth - an ideal alcoholic foil to the son of God’s salami. Incidentally, Jesus salami’s name hails from the red wine it’s made with rather than any officially confirmed holy properties.
Aperativo out of the way, next came a starter of deep fried pigs head. Crunchy breadcrumbs (Panko?) offsetting the meltingly tender braise inside. In amongst the unctuous filling, there were raisins and marrow (bone not vegetable variety) and spices lending it a sort of Medieval historic taste. The gribiche sauce base, with its mustard, caper and pickled content, provided a welcome acidity to the meat feast above.
Immaculately cooked chunky nuggety cod cheeks with lemon aioli and a scattering of breadcrumbs and greenery to offer a nice crunchy contrast.
Cod with brown shrimp butter sauce. Cucumber and chives adding a freshness and bite through the richness of the beurre pool beneath.
The real winner, however, was The Blonde’s beef fillet with snails and toast, swimming in a rich green herby garlic sauce. So tender we assumed it had been cooked sous vide, but a peer into the kitchen confirmed it was a la plancha. Primeur’s beef hails from Jorge Thomas at Swaledale Foods in Skipton - it was quite possibly the best beef I have ever tasted; further proof, if needed, that all the best things come from Yorkshire. We didn’t do much justice to Primeur’s wine offerings on this occasion, sampling only a carafe of the Tempranillo which made for a great companion to the beef.
Chocolate mousse with peanut caramel - there’s not really a bad word to be said about the combination of chocolate, praline and buttery sugary sauce. The only fault here being, if the puddings are this goddamn good, why do they only ever put one on the menu?
Whilst we’re on the subject of faults, I may as well break the news now - reservations: you can’t telephone Primeur, nor can you book online. The only way to get yourself a table is by going to the restaurant and speaking to them directly.
The cocky little phone on the wall is just to rub it in. If you get the number and you call it - they’ll just hang up on you. That’s right, people, actual human contact, you’re not going to like it.
Thankfully, on our second trip, we recruited The Blonde’s cousin Jeremy - as one of the head honchos of Spymaster, London’s premiere surveillance shop, we figured if anyone could infiltrate the system and crack Primeur’s code Jeremy was our man…
We were wrong.
But it didn’t matter, because we’re local and we walked. Sweet baby Jesus sausage, it feels good to be an N4 dweller at times like these.
Another reason to give praise is the Picon biere we discovered on the second visit, this drink really takes some beating.
You’re essentially adding an 18% proof bitter orange aperatif to beer, it’s pure adulterated alcoholic genius. Several hours later we were desperately phoning local off licenses to source a bottle of the liquid citrus nectar. Pathetic!
But what of the food? We did a sort of sharing set up but largely keeping our mains to ourselves.
Spiced aubergine, tomato and yoghurt with shredded basil.
Duck rilettes with cornichon, pickled onions, crunchy sourdough and a scattering of pink peppercorns to cut through the fat.
Squid with lemon and capers - rather than just using the juice, Primeur add delicate little morsels of fresh lemon flesh into the mix making for a super refreshing flavour packed plate
My main: Hake with lemon aioli. As if to make up for The Blonde’s epic beef last time, this dish was deemed winner; his words, not mine: ”I hake to say it, but you’ve got the star of the show”. Groan.
Spelt risotto with butternut squash chanterelles and sage to share - light Autumnal flavours that were thoroughly in keeping with the balmy Indian Summer’s day on which we dined.
Tender salt beef with mustard and caper dressing and a light flavoursome broth.
We shared two chocolate pots with peanut caramel - essentially a richer version of the pudding we had on our first venture.
We sank enough Picon to keep us in the restaurant until the time that patron Jeremie came to write up the dinner menu. Probably a cue to get out and let them get on with the next service.
But this is Primeur, they’re not like that, they do things differently here. They keep serving you Picon, they don’t judge AND they give you profiteroles.
Get a load of those vanilla flecks.
And the other brilliant thing about this place?
Primeur, you are perfection.
Primeur, 116 Petherton Road, London N5 2RT
Lunch: Friday to Sunday
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday