Great news for north London’s foodies: an exciting new restaurant has recently opened in Highgate. Combining classic cars with an impressive modern art collection and a delicious Mediterranean menu, The Engine Rooms is a totally unique concept, and early reviews have been glowing.
The restaurant marks the latest venture of Paul Michaels, owner of the Hexagon classic car dealership. It is not his first foray in the world of food and drink, though – last year saw him collaborate with wine expert Bert Blaize to launch Bottles ‘N’ Jars, a highly successful artisanal deli and fine wine merchant on the site of his Great North Road showroom.
Paul’s vision for the restaurant was to create a simple, regularly changing menu that encapsulated the joy of Mediterranean dining whilst using the best of seasonal British ingredients. Overseeing the state-of-the-art open plan kitchen is head chef James Harrison, formerly of Taka Marylebone, and sous chef Michelangelo Farina, who have created an all-day menu has a specific focus on fish and vegetables. Think grey mullet ceviche with confit tomato dressing, cured egg yolk, samphire, and pistachio. Meanwhile, head of pastry Darren Cafferty, who honed his skills at Brown’s Hotel and Roux at Parliament Square, has created a seasonal dessert menu – the Pistachio and Polenta Cake is not to be missed. The wine list comes courtesy of Bert Blaize, who has put together a thought-provoking selection of wines sourced from small, sustainable vineyards.
We visited for dinner and were impressed from the moment we set foot inside the building. With stunning classic cars to the left, we were led through to the main restaurant by super-friendly and knowledgeable staff led by restaurant manager Jasan Dovieher. A glass of chilled Champagne in hand, we struggle to narrow down our choices from the menu. A step up from so many restaurants, it’s the added little touches, extra flavours and dressings that intrigue us. We both opt for the aforementioned grey mullet ceviche to start with. The cured egg yolk and crumbled pistachios elevate the dish above your average ceviche.
For mains, halibut T-bone steak is another unusual cut of fish, and as chunky and flaky as one would hope for. A chicken breast is served with delicious chicken leg chickpea panisse and tzatziki. We probably don’t need as many sides as we order, but when skinny fries come with truffle and Berkswell cheese it’s hard to say no. Grilled hispi cabbage is a novel way to have one of your five a day; sprinkled with crispy shallots, black garlic aioli and a chilli crumb. it’s sensational. And that’s not something said about cabbage that often!
Desserts come in the form of a Guanaja Chocolate Mousse served with a big dollop of sweet and salty home-made peanut butter, and a fabulous gin and tonic cheesecake. Served with an apple and cucumber salsa and a minted lime sorbet it’s somehow both light and indulgent at the same time.
The setting is equally special, interior design was overseen by Paul’s late wife, whose art collection is on display throughout. Art combines with luxury furnishings alongside exposed industrial materials, all adding to the overall charm and atmosphere. Expect to see an extraordinarily rare ex-motor show Jaguar engine, as well as original pieces from the Ferrari Museum and racing car memorabilia as a nod to Michaels’ time. Whether you dine in the restaurant, on the intimate mezzanine dining level, or outside on the heated terrace perfect for winter al-fresco dining complete with electric canopy roof, The Engine Rooms has a space for truly all year dining.
The Engine Rooms will be changing its All Day menu seasonally to showcase the best of winter produce at the end of November. What’s more, throughout December guests will be able to enjoy Christmas specials, including: beetroot salmon gravalax with cucumber gazpacho and sourdough crostini; Christmas turkey pithivier with roast winter root vegetables and cranberry jus; Balmoral estate venison loin with chestnut puree, celeriac spaghetti, golden girolles and parsley greomolata; and Christmas pudding with brand custard. Full menus are available on the website.
82-92 Great N Rd, N2 0NL (theenginerooms.co.uk/)