Unlike it’s posh big sister Islington, Camden is the scruffy, rock 'n roll brother, loitering with bad intent around the pubs and bars by the market and canal.
Camden has always done good drinking, and will always hold a place in many people’s hearts as a music destination. But with a couple of honorable exceptions, it has never really taken off as a spot for foodies.
The Foundry on Delancey Street is an unlikely candidate to try to make an exception to that rule. Although it is a music bar of some repute (jazz and classical are its specialty) it’s not in the least bit scruffy. In fact, with its clean lines, wooden interiors, and square framed, floor to ceiling windows, it looks more Scandinavian then North London. And the dining section looks more like a cinema reception area than a restaurant.
The Foundry was also completely empty when we arrived. Admittedly it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs that night, and I know 7:30pm is a little early for your average Londoner, but its been a long time since the Northerner or I have walked into an empty restaurant. Nevertheless, once the charming maitre’d took us to our reserved table (given the lack of custom, probably unnecessary) and brought over a comforting bottle of house red (Albizu 2010, “Tempranillo” Vina Albergada from Spain) we checked out what was on offer. And thus our first surprise, as the Italian-influenced menu looked good. Very good.
We went for the caponata - aubergines, green olives, onion and capers with sweet and sour tomato - and linguini with swordfish, aubergine, cherry tomatoes and mint. Both dishes had an unexpected depth of flavour, and were cooked to Sothern italian perfection. They were also hearty enough to be mains, for which we actually chose the chargrilled swordfish steak served with samphire and salmoriglio dressing and the fillet of venison, parma ham and wild mushrooms en croute with chestnut purée and beans. The swordfish was the best either of us had tasted in the UK. The venison en croute was like a bigger a better version of beef Wellington. The Venison was cooked medium rare, the pastry was crisp yet buttery, while the chestnut purée was heavenly. We squeezed in a couple of desserts which did not live up the mains, but were strong nevertheless.
I have to admit that the Foundry surprised us. We went in with modest expectations only to be confounded and delighted by what we were served. It is perhaps lacking a bit of atmosphere, but don't let that put you off. The food is superb. And not in the slightest bit scruffy.