Last Updated on January 22, 2024
Nothing fishy about this lovely local restaurant
January is a very gloomy month, especially in sub-zero temperatures. I find that nothing peps me up more than meeting up with a friend for a meal in a convivial neighbourhood restaurant. There are times when fine dining is required, but a freezing, mid-week get-together requires somewhere less formal. Fortunate residents of Highbury are spoilt for choice with fabulous local eateries. Prawn on the Lawn on buzzing St Paul’s Road is one of these.
This unusually named restaurant is the sister of the branch in Cornwall’s Padstow which is synonymous with well-cooked fish. Highbury may be nowhere near the sea, but this Prawn on the Lawn has daily deliveries of fresh fish and the items offered on the chalkboard vary accordingly. It is a wonderful place for pescatarians – no danger here of the only fish offering being yet another boring pan-fried fillet of seabass. How lovely to be able to eat the entire menu.
The dishes are divided into small plates, larger sharing plates, a choice of oysters and a few sides. As we were keen to try a sharing dish, we limited ourselves to two small plates and a vegetable side as starters, but I would be equally happy to make a meal from the small plate menu alone. A glass of wine and a platter of oysters would not go astray either.
As we settled ourselves at a small, square wooden table that was simply covered with brown paper, we chose a couple of cocktails to ease into the evening. The restaurant looks very NYC – wooden floorboards, bare brick walls, naked lightbulbs and an open kitchen. Large glass windows overlook the busy street outside. Indoors it was warm and cosy, service was friendly and efficient.
A well-made Classic Margarita presented just the right amount of kick while a Negroni with mezcal had a lovely smokiness. I rather regretted not ordering a dish of taramasalata with crispbreads which was delivered to the next table. I do suffer with menu envy but must add that every dish that went by to other tables looked delectable.
We began with a sea trout ceviche with Peruvian dressing. This was a colourful dish, small cubes of pink fish accompanied by dainty pieces of cucumber, tomato and red onion. A piquant dressing, Aleppo chilli flakes and micro-coriander leaves all brought a well-spiced vibrancy to this wonderfully fresh plate.
Equally enjoyable was a dish of cuttlefish, Gochujang, and pickled ginger. A pile of thin strips of fried cuttlefish – well seasoned and tender – perched upon a small heap of stir-fried greens. The spicing provided just the right level of heat for my taste and was delectable. It had that wonderful Asian balance of sweet, sour and sweet loveliness. I could happily have eaten a main course portion.
An unusual side dish we enjoyed was Kohlrabi teriyaki. I am a big fan of this underused vegetable, usually adding it raw to salads where it brings a marvellous crunchiness to proceedings. Here it was cut into wafer-thin slices that had been lightly cooked so that it retained some crunch. It was lightly dressed with a teriyaki sauce and heaps of toasted coriander seeds. Most creative.
Other starter plates included scallops, tuna, clams and mussels, and the two fish of the day – brill and pollock. These two fish appeared in our main course dish, seafood orzetto. Attractively served in a cast iron dish, it contained fillets of fish – the brill was particularly tasty – along with a prawn each, a handful of clams and mussels and some tomatoes. Below was a soupy sauce in which we found the tiny orzetto, one of my favourite pasta shapes. The fish was spread with a very thin garlicky green sauce which added colour and a burst of flavour. It was a healthy-looking dish and perfect for the post-festive season indulgences without feeling in any way ‘virtuous’.
There are two dessert options – a basil panna cotta and the chosen dark chocolate mousse, orange and hazelnut. There is also a choice of Affogato – a scoop of Hackney gelato ice cream with either expresso, Pedro Ximenez or coffee liqueur. Oh my!
The mousse was properly adult – wickedly dark and glossy, full-bodied with the bitter note of a very good dark chocolate. Toasted hazelnuts and orange zest were perfect bedfellows. Accompanied by a glass of 2019 Montbazillac – Domaine Grange Neuve – all felt right with the world.
Prawn on the Lawn was packed on a Tuesday night when outdoors it was below freezing. We arrived early and when we left the restaurant was refilled for a second sitting. The restaurant is cooking and presenting fish and seafood really well and they can park their prawn on my lawn anytime. I will be back.
Prawn on the Lawn
292 – 294 St Paul’s Road, London N1 2LH
Opening hours: Wed – Sat 12 – 11pm, Tues 5 – 11pm, closed Sunday and Monday