The Narrowboat, Islington

Please note that this review is from February 12, 2018 and may be out of date...restaurants sometimes get better, get worse, employ a new chef or end up with new management.

Sometimes I don’t know how to start a blog post. It isn’t for the lack of ideas – I just have conflicting themes rolling around my head like ill-disciplined children in a ball pool.

Ahh, yes. Discipline. That should perhaps be the theme – for you may have noticed that I suffer from an occasional lack of writing discipline, my parents noticed my lack of general discipline fairly early on in life. The police didn’t clock on until I was 13. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have gone over the the police officer with a video camera and stuck two fingers up to her when I was enjoying my regular lunchbreak on the railway lines.

We were due a good roast dinner so I was pleased when the random number generator picked The Narrowboat in Islington. Based on experience, I can make a quick judgement about the likelihood of a good roast, and I thought it was likely that The Narrowboat would do a good roast dinner. Though sometimes expectations can be a killer…like expecting to lose my virginity before I was 16.

The venue itself was pretty damn gorgeous. Quite a thin building (you could say narrow), two elongated rooms stacked on top of each other, with a main bar at top and small bar on the bottom floor. Most of the space was used for tables, as this is far more a restaurant than a pub.

It had the modern-standard elements of exposed brickwork, light green and teal walls, with some wood panelling. There were cute touches here and there such as describing the cleaner’s room as “cleaner’s hidey hole”.

Oh and the biggest selling point – it is right next to Regent’s Canal. Quite a superb location, you can sit there eating dinner, watching canal boats sail by and the occasional floating Jacuzzi filled with bikini-clad young ladies. Probably with Essex accents.

Allegedly Boris Johnson lives close by – now there is a man who could teach us a thing or two about a lack of discipline, especially when it comes to fidelity.

My lack of discipline is also probably holding me back from having a girlfriend. That and my face. And my belly. And my propensity for farting in public. Not in a Boris Johnson infidelity way, more a not putting the toilet seat down kind of way. Which nicely leads me into a reminder of my Valentine’s Opportunity.

Wednesday is Valentine’s Day. I am single. I haven’t had a match on Tinder since 2016. I am offering the fantastic opportunity to go for dinner on Wednesday night with a fat, ugly tosser with a blog. That’s me. Yes, I will buy you a very cheap dinner of some description (possibly fried chicken) and we can sit there twiddling our hair and talk pleasantries about Brexit. And maybe talk about our ex’s and then send pictures of our feet to each other. Or whatever happens on dates.

All I am looking for is a young lady, at least somewhat pretty, less fat than me with larger boobs than me. And no nob. You don’t even need to provide sexual favours.

Know someone that could fit the bill? Get in touch.

Because if I am alone on Valentine’s night, I am going to subject myself to the most abject misery that I can think of, at least without switching on the television or going to the local Wetherspoons. In fact, it is going to be worse than Wetherspoons.

You can change my destiny. And yours or your hot mate’s.

Talking of changing destiny, maybe it is time to talk roast dinner. About fucking time, I hear you. By the way, I am less fat than Boris Johnson.

On the menu we had beef striploin for £18.00, pork belly for £16.00, chicken for £15.50 or £30.00 for a whole chicken – and a vaguely tempting vegetarian for an forgotten price. Spinach and mushroom wellington. I did actually add it to my consideration set. And promptly dismissed it.

I might have plucked up the courage for the vegetarian, however the pork belly just looked so good on the passing plates. I’m being serious, I did think about the vegetarian. So I asked for the pork belly and gave the usual “no peas” check though without being too weird this time. I had plenty of weird people for company.

The cute waitress advised that it would be a 25 minutes wait, which I am more than fine with – and good to be told too. Am I allowed to describe someone as ‘cute’ in the post-#metoo world? It did seem longer than 25 minutes, but hey.

Dinner arrived and I was initially impressed – especially with the portion size. Of course I had to ask for extra gravy – nobody, just nobody down south understands.

© Copyright – Roast Dinners In London 2018

And then it was pointed out to me that I had a pea. On my plate. I asked for no peas. It’s a discipline thing, again. They get everywhere – nothing worse than trying to eat a piece of pork belly to find that a pea has secreted itself underneath. Or got mixed up with the potato. I’m fine with the taste, though they are the kind of food that would barely have been welcome in the late 1940’s – it is the lack of discipline that disturbs me.

© Copyright – Roast Dinners In London 2018

I thought about throwing it at the waitress. I put it on the table.

Then I found another one. Severely unamused, I placed it on the ledge. If you are going to give me pea pain, I shall give you cleaning pain.

© Copyright – Roast Dinners In London 2018

Shall we get started? Over 5,000 characters and I have barely said anything of use.

The carrots seemed to have been roasted, or at least partly. They were the perfect balance between tough and crunchy, and wait…what the fuck? Another pea. And another one.

Then we had some spring greens. And a few more fucking peas. I hope you understand just how much peas unsettle me. The spring greens were unremarkable, fairly tasteless and a bit too tough for my liking. And another pea. At this point I did a thorough hunt and built a pile of at least 15 small peas that I placed on the table like a 5 year-old child would. So, anyone interested in my Valentine’s Opportunity yet?

There was a small sample of cauliflower cheese. Minimal cheese and a moderate hint of cheese.

At least one of my accomplices alleged that she had some broccoli. I didn’t. By the way, I think I was concerned about my privacy rights.

Alas the 25 minutes didn’t guarantee crispy roast potatoes. I mean how dare she film me? I was only a child. I once went on a coach trip to a nightclub, and it was a party coach. One of my friends pointed out that there were two police officers sat on the seats in front of me. One minute later a friend of mine…I mean…someone I knew of came down the coach shouting, “anyone want to buy some drugs” and waving various bags around.

Alas the 25 or so minutes didn’t guarantee crispy roast potatoes. Does my Dad still read this? Anyway, they were on the anaemic side, they needed a good 20-25 minutes extra which was a real shame – either badly planned, or they just don’t do very good roast potatoes. Edible, better than at The Laughing Gravy for example.

The police officers already had their own stash. And I don’t mean roast potatoes.

© Copyright – Roast Dinners In London 2018

The Yorkshire pudding was on the small side, but it had risen. A double-egg yorkie, it was a bit tougher than perfection, but it tasted nice. And guess what was under it? Some gravy. Ha – got you! You thought I was going to moan about peas again. By the way, I think might have been lesbians.

There were two sticks of crackling, one was much crispier than the other, both had that golden fatty taste of beautiful pork, and worked so well with the actual pork.

Now the pork belly I was impressed with the quantity. About 3 times as much as I’ve had at other places, notably Pedler in Peckham. Two long, fat chunks. The fat was left on, which is perfect, the meat itself was tender – perhaps it could have been cooked a bit longer – it could just have done with a slight crisp to the outside, and a tad longer, but I’m being annoying here.

And then to finish, the gravy. This was a decent meat-stock affair, a nice dark brown, an actual gravy rather than a jus. A fair consistency, but as a northerner anything less viscous than cement bothers me.

So. I was a contented chap by the end of it. In fact I was happy. Pork belly, crackling and gravy were very good, bordering on excellent. The rest was all good enough, bordering on good. Lose a bit for the lack of discipline, gain a bit for the service.

Indeed, despite the pea malfunction, service was good, the two young ladies looking after our table were friendly and helpful – regularly bringing drinks over and casually trying to tempt us with dessert. I’m having a bit of time away from cake, but the chocolate brownie looked awesome when I saw someone else eating it. You know how you order the brownie at some places and it looks like they’ve taken two pieces from a large supermarket brownie box? Well, this just looked delectable.

There are definite improvements that could be made to the roast – roast potatoes in particular. Shock horror. It deserves an 8, just, so I’m giving it an 8.02 out of 10. It really was not far away from being a great roast.

Next weekend I’m going to Balham – lets hope it is a damn sight better than the last clusterfuck of a roast I had in Balham.

I shall leave you with a picture that is possibly of myself. Don’t forget to share.

And don’t forget my Valentine’s Opportunity.

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The Narrowboat, Islington

Station: Angel

Tube Lines: Northern

Fare Zone: Zone 1

Price: £16.00

Rating: 8.02

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Loved & Loathed

Loved: Gorgeous location, pork belly was plentiful and very good, gravy was a decent meat-stock affair.

Loathed: Roast potatoes needed another 20 minutes in the oven - but more importantly - two stray peas. PEAS. Urgh.

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