Now that hipster beards are a thing and therefore soon to be a thing of the past – surely nothing can spell the end of a trend like melting your Baked Alaska on Great British Bake Off – I imagine Shoreditch will have to find another way of displaying rampant twattery. They might want to look a mile or two up the road to Finsbury Park if they want to find out how to be achingly trendy without everyone wanting to punch them in their (freshly shaved) faces.
The reason I begin with this frankly unwarranted diatribe against the graphic design community is because as I walked in to Season, ten minutes before everyone else arrived, I experienced the very strange sensation of feeling as though I’d just arrived somewhere incredibly hip but which, unusually, had managed to pull off the sensation of being incredibly cosy and welcoming at the same time. The dining room itself has the feel of an old thrift shop designed with exquisitely shabby taste that leaves you cooing over the old school chairs right up until you see the price tag on them. There is a simple secret to pulling this off beyond good taste in interior design, and that is giving a shit about what you’re doing, and on that level Season scores very highly indeed. Even the (one) misstep seemed to be born out of trying to do things well and that is an approach only to be applauded.
I was shown to a round corner table, which as the waiter (too young for a beard but you could see it was itching to grow) pointed out, was a better option than the one he had originally earmarked for us in the middle of the room. I sat down with some fizzy water and complimentary bright green olives to wait for everyone else and read the tracing paper menus. Tracing paper menus are just the sort of affectation that might annoy me elsewhere, but here seemed rather quaint and redolent of the sort of schooldays that no one outside the cabinet ever really experienced. There was also a smaller menu on the table concerning their wine pricing. I’m having a year off booze which I’m pompously enjoying, but this was one of those times that tested my resolve. A blanket mark up across the board (as opposed to a percentage per bottle) means that they were offering, for instance, a Chablis Grand Cru that sells at The Dorchester for £162 at £42. I bit my lip, patted my smug liver and poured myself another glass of fizzy water.
My brother, girlfriend and better half arrived in quick succession – as did some more free olives (I like this place) and we got to grips with the menu. There is a certain amount of waffle about how the name of the restaurant reflects their philosophy, which I always feel is a bit unnecessary – we live in a globalised world, and blathering about local/seasonal/organics can get a bit wearisome and uninformed in places. What I really want a menu to tell me is that we have these things that we have made into this and it’s really good. Luckily almost all of it was. Really good.
Having polished off a Camden Pale Ale in no time at all, my brother ordered the house cocktail – or ‘Season Restorative’ made with Kamm & Sons Ginseng spirit which is exactly the sort of thing you would only have in a restaurant and why going to restaurants is fun. I wasn’t even (particularly) jealous of him – possibly because at this point we were all tucking into what he confidently described as ‘the best soda bread I’ve ever eaten’, and he wasn’t wrong. It was like cake. Good cake.
Wild leaf salad with duck egg was fabulous – spiky sorrel and mugwort (yes, we asked) soothed by the richness of the egg, while Stoke Newington smoked salmon (apparently smoked by a man with a huge beard, fact fans) was firm, meaty and beautifully paired with diced peach and melon jelly. Courgette flowers were ridiculously phallic, and what happened when you cut into them was frankly porngraphic, but a crisp batter and the cream cheese filling meant they were as tasty as they were rude and amusing. The only disappointment was my wild rabbit, fennel and orange salad. I applaud the effort, but the cold rabbit was just too dry and was really the only thing we ate that didn’t feel worthy of its place on the menu. Still – the exception that proves the rule and all that.
Bavette steaks were chunky red slabs of meat with a big slapping hit of chimichurri slathered all over the accompanying cherry tomatoes, while sea trout was a serious hunk of expertly cooked fish with clams lightly poached in the broth and iron rich sea vegetables floating alongside. There were good chips, new potatoes and a ‘Growing Communities’ salad that was disarming in its brilliance. As my other half pointed out, it’s quite something when the most amazing thing on a table groaning under the weight of this much food is a green salad, but I guess that just proves what a dick I am for moaning about the menu banging on about its seasonality.
I’m still annoyed I didn’t have the bitter chocolate pot for dessert, mainly because we had already ordered one lemon tart, but I had another and it was faultless. I just wanted to try the chocolate. Rhubarb and custard doughnuts were five balls of sugary indulgence, if not quite the revelation I was hoping for, but that is splitting hairs. They were still bloody good. All told the bill (with a couple of glasses of house red and white) came in at roughly the same price as a bottle of Chablis Grand Cru at The Dorchester, and I know where I’d rather be. Since moving out to Hertford, I come through Finsbury Park a lot, so I’m sure I’ll return – I need to try that chocolate pot for a start. Like fashions, seasons may come and go, but this Season is clearly rooted in a very good place, and hopefully here for the long term. A bit like my beard.