Restaurant Review: Bonnie and Wild, N1
11:37 23 February 2012
Jon Dean tries a pop up diner in Islington
»Sometimes a place completely blows you away when you least expect it.
All I knew about Bonnie and Wild before I went was that it’s a part-time restaurant that serves Scottish food.
While both these facts are true, they gave no idea of the treasures in store.
First up, the venue – M Manze – a pie and mash institution in Chapel Market that has been serving hungry Islingtonians since 1905.
It’s a listed building and with the interior full of atmospheric hanging lamps, wooden pews and marble tabletops, it’s easy to see why so many film crews hire it out.
But every Friday and Saturday, from 6pm, the jellied eels and liquor give way to delicate seasonal fare cooked by award-winning chefs.
The menu is three courses for around £30, although if you are really averse to having all three, a deal can be struck.
Bonnie and Wild @ M Manze
lately at 74 Chapel Market
Mains: 3 courses for £29
Wine: start at £6 from The Sampler, Upper Street
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled access: Yes
Being part time, it’s a BYOB, but specialist wine merchant The Sampler, in Upper Street, recommend a red and white to go with each weekend’s menu.
If you let the restaurant know when you book, the bottle will be waiting when you arrive.
This means you get off-licence price with the convenience of buying at the restaurant – the fabulous 2007 Cote De Rhone we enjoyed would have cost five times more at most eateries.
The food changes week to week and the choice isn’t huge – on our visit each course was either sustainably sourced game, fish or a veggie option – but everything we tasted was of enormously high quality.
My pigeon breast was tender and had a sweet, smoky flavour from accompanying chorizo and pureed apple, and our other starter consisted of fleshy, pan-fried chestnut mushrooms enriched with a full Stilton sauce.
Next the baked Coley fillet was cooked perfectly, flaking with the touch of a fork. It came on a toothsome mound of garlic mash and prawns, swimming in a buttery lemon dressing.
The finest culinary moment, though, was the venison chateaubriand – a fantastic big pink cut of meat, with a much stronger, denser flavour than beef.
It came on a masculine wooden board with rocket, creamy, sharp béarnaise and a sweet jus that brought out the dark taste of the venison.
The obligatory cheese board was also very good, with a strong Camembert and blue cheese, and the unusual Lancashire Black Bomber – a full, crumbly cheese whose name comes from the bomb-like wax packages it comes in.
By now you will have gathered the food is very good, but Bonnie and Wild has much more going for it.
A super smooth soundtrack of motown and soul had us nodding our heads while we ate, and a three-piece band play on busier nights.
The staff were helpful and friendly, including turning on a heater especially for us.
The incredible venue also another welcome quirk – to visit the toilets you have to walk through the cavernous, institutional kitchen.
This obviously leads to banter with the chef and kitchen staff, who are just as welcoming as the waiters, and perfectly happy to answer your questions about the food.
It’s very hard to fault Bonnie and Wild as it does everything you want from a restaurant so well. It was initially launched as a pop-up place, but after seven months they thought they had best change their status to “part-time”.
Sadly, as is the nature of pop-up establishments, Bonnie and Wild has now disapperaed. But keep an eye on the website, www.bonniegull.com, because the team is bound to surface again soon.