I wasn’t sure about Mishkin’s when I first heard what Polpo impresario Russell Norman was planning for his fifth opening. “A kind of Jewish deli with cocktails,” said the Twitter account. My reservations were increased further when I found out it wasn’t going to be kosher, and they would be serving a pork hot dog. A pork hot dog in a Jewish-influenced deli? Is this not akin to opening a Vatican-themed restaurant and putting on a live protected sex show? Well, no it isn’t but it made me think blimey, is he going to get it wrong this time? Is it going to be like a theme restaurant? Are the staff going to be forced to dress as rabbis?
Now, in what could be seen as a new ‘pro’ direction for MBFBY?, I visited Mishkin’s twice before writing this review. Not because of my dedication to objective reviewing, mainly because as a frequent user of Waterloo station, Mishkin’s is ridiculously handy, located on Catherine St, just over Waterloo Bridge. Also I was too lazy to get my opening week review online straightaway. Ah well, who gives a jot about frantically scrambling to get your review online before everyone else? It’s certainly a fairer indication of the quality of an establishment to visit after the opening fuss has died down. Not that this was my intention.
Marking a sea change in the usual Russell Norman formula of NO BOOKINGS and MASSIVE QUEUES you can actually reserve a table at Mishkin’s, just like a normal restaurant. That’s the only radical difference though, the rest of the trademarks are there, the tattooed hipster staff, the cool music, the faux-vintage interior. Not that I have a problem with any of this stuff, quite the opposite. The interior here is warmer than any of the other joints, very much based on a New York diner. There’s nothing overtly ‘Jewish themed’ about it. And the staff aren’t dressed as rabbis. In fact, they seem to have based their look on ‘Leisure’-era Blur, despite the fact that none of them were alive when that album was released. I don’t know, the kids these days, eh?
A pork hot dog in a Jewish-influenced deli? Is this not akin to opening a Vatican-themed restaurant and putting on a live protected sex show?
Bowl cuts aside, I found the staff to be friendly and efficient (consistent with Norman’s other establishments. Where does he find them?) ProTip: If you sit at table 1 (which we did both times) you get to watch the hilarious spectacle of the staff ducking under the gap in the bar (the hinged bar is never open, making me wonder if Mr. Norman has specified it remain closed to promote Buster Keaton-style slapstick hilarity to entertain the punters).
The place was bustling on both visits, nicely full, soul music playing on the stereo, cocktails being mixed behind the zinc-topped bar. Now, the cocktails are really quite something. Inventive, and well priced (around the 6.50 mark). Over the course of the visits I had a Gin Rickey (taut, strong) and a Diamond Fizz (kind of like a more sophisticated Mojito, attractively served in a mini pewter tankard). Mrs MBFBY loved her Negroni. At these prices you could sit there working your way through the list all day until they threw you out for shouting and still have change from 80 quid.
On to the scran. First up we have a steamed burger. This was a brilliant start – the bun and patty seemingly fused together by the steaming process giving a delicious, airy texture. Nice classic ‘meaty’ taste too, a little like the taste of bone marrow. Nice pile of gherkin slices on the side. My only complaint is that they should offer a full size version (this one is more like a slider). When you go, order this for sure.
Next up we have matzo ball soup. This is serious comfort food, a light chicken broth with a great big suet-y dumpling in it. The broth was very good, if a little unmemorable. To be fair, a dish like this isn’t about blowing your taste buds apart, it delivers because it’s warming, tasty and has a great big suet-y dumpling in it. Perfect for a cold December day.
The tantalisingly named cod cheek popcorn was the dish I was most looking forward to, sadly it was underwhelming. It’s chunks of cod cheek in a light batter. Nothing wrong with the texture or cooking, it was just a bit, well, bland. It would benefit hugely from a sauce of some kind; the obvious choice would be something like sweet chili (maybe too far away from the remit of Mishkin’s?)
We had to try the blasphemous hot dog (heading image), especially as I’ve tried (and loved) the work of the supplier - Big Apple Hot Dogs of Old St - earlier in the year. It didn’t disappoint. It’s massive, the sausage is unrivalled in quality and the ‘dragged through the garden’ garnish was fresh and zingy. On the side we had ‘half and half’ home cooked chips (skin on, very tasty) and onion rings (light and reasonably sized, not stupid massive ones like you get in bloody ‘Gourmet’ Burger Kitchen).
The other dish that had been hyped-up-to-buggery was the Ruben sandwich, and I’m pleased to report that this didn’t disappoint either. I was really quite hung over when I had this and it sorted me right out. Pastrami, sauerkraut and melted cheese on toast. That’s it, and it’s as good as it sounds (and a very generous portion. A classic toasted sandwich.
Dessert-wise I had Bananas Foster which despite looking a bit like bangers and mash was actually a very sweet concoction of warm banana, ice cream and caramel. It’s not for the faint hearted though, luckily it ran out before it could get sickly.
Now, one thing that really lets the side down at Mishkin’s is the beer. You’ve got 2 choices – Red Stripe or London Pride. In CANS. I’m sorry but this just isn’t on. It’s not bloody Brixton Academy. Plus, at 5 quid each (FIVE QUID!), that’s actually more expensive than Brixton Academy. Overpriced canned beer has no place in an establishment like this. I suspect this is purely an aesthetic decision by the proprietor. Come on, Mr. Norman, cans of Red Stripe with my delicious Ruben sandwich? No thanks.
Gripes aside I enjoyed Mishkin’s, and due to its informal nature, reasonably priced comfort food and handy location (for me, anyway) I’ll be visiting often. The interior is lovely, and they even have a sink that looks like some kind of bulbous-nosed 50s robot (see above). However there are a few dishes that need work and the TINS of CRAPPY RED STRIPE situation needs sorting desperately. That considered, I’d rate Mishkin’s…
25 Catherine St
020 7240 2078
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