This, I imagine, tactical undersell suppressed my expectations on a smotheringly humid evening recently. Split over two levels, John Salt carries off the, some would say now clichéd, industrial chic aesthetic with rare aplomb.

Downstairs a number of slatted metal tables and benches sit next to floor-to-ceiling front windows. The bar is a pewter-topped expanse of beauty that forms a suitable centre-point to the relaxed downstairs, while the dining area is stationed in a murkily lit mezzanine. 

The grub John Salt’s menu is the brainchild of former Pitt Cue Co chef/ BBQ savant Neil Rankin. Indulging the current trend for ‘sharing plates’, John Salt’s daily changing menu is a cacophony of clashes and cunning blue-collar embellishments. See: aged-dripping fries.

Our pork belly with pineapple is so good I wish it was served by the pallet, and the deep-fried whitebait with chipotle mayo is fresh and spicy. The heirloom tomato salad is delightfully biting and the chard onions with yoghurt is one of those dishes that is so simple it fools you into thinking you could create your own version at home. You couldn’t.

Thoroughly stuffed I force down a strawberry soup with sesame brittle, which is a bizarrely fitting end to the meal.

Behind the bar The sharing plates style of dining doesn’t lend itself to a bottle of plonk. You’re better off going with a couple of bottles from John Salt’s considered beer list. Kernel IPA is great. Although, if you’re set on wine, the Rioja is balanced and versatile enough to rub along happily with most dishes on the menu.

Bill please Small plates start from £3.50, with most medium plates £8, going up to £12 for really big plates. Sides £3; desserts £4; beer from £4; wine from £3.95.

Verdict Usually when you take blue collar food as your inspiration and give it a proper dining twist the soul disappears along with the taste. John Salt has kept both, in spades. Perfect for a relaxed mid-week treat, or, whisper it, a date. 

%TNT Magazine% stars 4

131 Upper Street, N1 1QP  
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