Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.
I had my own moment downstairs in the venue's café, Made in Camden. It may sound like a desperate channel 5 ploy to cash in on the pretense and stupidity of Made in Chelsea, but there are no cameras and certainly no egos. The food, presented as a global take on tapas, is often experimental, but never in a smoke-and-mirrors Heston way.
You can tell the chefs were once students of Yotam Ottelenghi. The list of ingredients is dizzying, the fusion of cuisines baffling and the range on offer intimidating. But it's all layered expertly. The complex-sounding and delicate-looking dishes are so punchy, so satisfying, so perfect, that they left me speechless. I was a baby eating solids for the first time; I was kid eating chocolate money; I was reliving the first Double Decker I ever ate. Some dishes were so moorish that I might as well have been eating Walkers Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations. If you ever have ambitions to be obese, this is surely the way to do it. Made in Camden's food is simply addictive.
My friends and I couldn't communicate. Like cavemen and women we moaned and grunted at each other, reached out to grab fistfuls of food, unable to articulate thanks or graces. I floundered and stuttered, pointlessly trying to explain to my all-to-aware guests just how good the food was. And so the random swearing started. I think it was the endive and sweet potato crumble with slow-roasted tomato salsa that did it. It started with satisfying crunch, then a wash of creamy sweet potato, then a slap of salty endive and was finished by the mouthwatering zing of the salsa.
Or maybe it was the calamari, deep fried in what looked like diamonds, dunked in chilli aioli then smothered with pumpkin jam. It was alternately sweet, then spicy, then salty; soft, then springy, then crunchy. I mopped up the aioli with the squid like it was just bread and soup.
Of course, it could also have been the crispy, oily hake tempura, served with a sweet and sour Kaffir lime sauce and grilled broccoli. I know it's tapas and the portions are meant to be small, but goddamnit I wanted more Hake.
That's not to say the portions are stingy - the only dishes on the menu not meant to be shared (apart from the soup surely, because that's just silly) are the desserts. And those portions are by no means mean. My chocolate mousse was like a decadent sweet brick on the plate, and came with a coffee and mascarpone tart. I felt somewhat cheated by the term tart, as really it was a scoop of coffee flavoured cheese in slightly stale pastry, but oh my days the mousse was effing fantastic.
In fact, my dinner at Made in Camden was a litany of expletives. I was like an excitable (slightly bearded) child with tourettes. Sadly it wasn't all for the right reasons. Given how empty the restaurant was, the service was pathetic. Unless they were hiding a rowdy and demanding party in the back room, three cocktails should not take 20 minutes to make – and if they are missing an ingredient for one, they should tell the diner immediately, not after delivering the first two. Given how few orders must have been put through the till, they shouldn't have added a glass of wine and half a wheat beer to our tab. More importantly, when we questioned this, they should have been a little more trusting of a party that has just spent £120 on dinner.
But nothing could spoil the work of the chefs. To turn three educated people into dribbling wrecks, without plying them with alcohol, is no mean feat, and I for one was speechless at how wonderful the food was. When you have tasted good food, you realise it is more addictive than the additives that are meant to hook us. It's proof that psychological addiction is stronger than chemical.