Holloway Road is, by no means, a culinary hotspot. It isn’t even a a warm dishcloth in the world of decent food, so you can only imagine my surprise when I was asked to make my way to a restaurant called 500 on a stretch of road known only for kebab shops and their kin. It was an Italian restaurant, mind you, and for it’s name is not indicative of its address, for 500 lies at 786 Holloway Road. Naturally, I decided to use google maps to alert me when I was near and to my irksome surprise, found out that google too, had made a human error and directed me to number 500 on Holloway Road. Nevertheless, a brisk walk to build up the appetite and to fight away the cold evening air had me, 10 minutes later, walking into a tiny little restaurant, no more than 8 tables big.
The menu is small and to my surprise, not what I was expecting at all. There is of course, the usual pastas etc but in general, it was a seasonal menu, it was not stereotypical Italian and they also advertised the option of having black truffle from Alba shaved over your dish at a cost of £5.50.
We decided to go in for a little appetiser of olives and deep-fried stuffed with cheese and mint – a nibble I quite appreciated for its likeness to crispy wantons. For our starters we went in for Salad of beetroot, radicchio, chicory and horseradish – light start to the meal, and one that even in its bare simplicity, is a comforting dish of contrasting flavours. Chestnut soup with milk and cinnamon was the lucky recipient of truffles – and I thought the chef shaving the truffle into the soup would never stop! He literally gave a ton of truffle. Now, I’m not a huge fan of truffles, but on this occasion, it was hard not to appreciate the woody mustiness of the mushroom against the sweet and aromatic creaminess of the soup. I wasn’t able to finish the soup – there was just too much of it (too much soup, too many pieces of chopped chestnut), it was just the thing for a cold and windy evening.
For once, M and I went for the same main course. Grilled leg of venison, wild mushrooms and polenta. My eyes very nearly popped out of my head – the size of this serving – almost enough for two to share. A generous portion of venision would be putting it lightly and cooked to an absolute perfection – this is what autumn flavours are all about, this is what make you fall in love, briefly, with the cold, this is what you take time to eat, slowly, savouring every bite. This was simple food, cooked simply, cooked perfectly.
Unfortunately, there was absolutely no space for desserts. M did mention that their tiramisu was to die for. Coming from a person who normally will not eat a tiramisu because of it’s baby food textural qualities, this was a very highly rated compliment. Tiramisu it was that I would come back next time for, skipping the starters!
And sure enough, it was a good 25 minute walk back home – the food working its magic to keep us warm and energised. What a gem of a place, unassuming, unpretentious and run with love and affection – it certainly shows in the food and the attitudes of the staff!
Overall experience: 8
Recommend you go: 8