Just a few steps from Chalk Farm tube station, it's a little too far out of the centre for some, but a handy location for many North Londoners, and for anyone catching a show in the Roundhouse. And as the venue's food and drinks outlet, it's open throughout the day and evenings, 7 days a week.
The space is a sweeping curve of modern glass and metal snapped around the outside of the original Roundhouse building, originally built in 1846 as a steam-engine repair shed before being converted to a gin warehouse! It first became an arts venue in the 1960s but was closed in the 1980s due to lack of funds. This decade has seen the big bucks poured into it though and it reopened in 2006 after a massive redevelopment project.
Inside the restaurant is bright and buzzy with red, white and brown the main colours. It's completely open plan and I suspect it tends towards very noisy when busy. When we were there, it was clearly popular with the young and hip 11-25 crowd that the Roundhouse reaches out to.
Fans of brunch will enjoy breakfast options such as (jazzed up) porridge, home-made granola, pancakes, fruit compotes, smoked salmon, sandwiches and a variety of egg dishes.
Made in Camden's lunch and dinner menu provides a modern British (or perhaps, Modern European) take on what us Brits might loosely refer to as tapas or mezze – lots of small plates to share. It recommends 3 plates per person and advises that the individual dishes are brought to the table when ready.
The drinks menu gives a nod to the Made in Camden name, featuring beers from local Camden Town Brewery, as well as The Kernel Brewery, a little further south, near Borough Market. There are also beers and ciders from further afield in the UK as well as from Belgium, Germany, Australia, Mexico and U.S.A. Wines are provided by Bibendum, also based in London.
For those looking for more of an occasion, there's a cocktail menu featuring a number of their own concoctions – the classics can also be requested.
Between us, we tried a good selection:-
Pickled pear, toasted walnut, mache, gorgonzola (£5.90)
Mache is, apparently, another name for lamb's lettuce. Who knew? (Not me). This combination of pear, walnut, blue cheese and salad is a classic and for good reason. It was lifted by the addition of red onion. Decent.
Seared coriander tuna, polenta, slow-roasted tomato, green olive salsa (£8.90)
The tuna was perfectly cooked and balanced nicely with the olive salsa. I couldn't detect much coriander flavour at all, which is a shame as it's my favourite herb, and the reason I chose this dish. The roasted tomatoes had a rich, concentrated flavour.
Spiced calamari, beetroot, orange, almond aioli (£6.90)
The aioli was very mild; I'd have liked more of a garlic kick. But overall the flavours were good and the calamari fresh and hot. I liked the crunch of toasted almonds, the juicy burst of orange segments and the sweet tang of beetroot.
Chargrilled scallops, morcilla, pink grapefruit, shallot puree (£9.90)
I'd thought this a bit expensive, when I saw it on the menu, but the scallops were large, fresh and cooked just right. Morcilla instead of the more common pairing of British blood pudding was a nice but subtle change. I hadn't been sure about the grapefruit but really, really liked the sharp citrus with slightly sweet scallop and metallic morcilla.
Butternut squash risotto, pumpkin seed, chorizo (£6.90)
This dish was one of my favourites. I felt it had the perfect balance between gloopy, unctuous rice, soft starchy squash and salty chorizo. That said, some felt the chorizo was too dominant a flavour. For me, I liked having sweeter mouthfuls alternate with meaty spicy ones.
Crisp pork belly, pickled cabbage, apple puree, poached quince (£9.90)
The pork belly was extremely soft, incredibly soft, and yet had fabulous crackling – that mix of crunchy, chewy, sticky that I love. I liked the apple puree. The quince and cabbage were OK but didn't thrill.
Seared onglet, chimichurri, basque potatoes, braised red onion (£8.90)
A little too much potato and not enough onglet for the price, but a decent dish nonetheless. I really didn't like the potatoes but the steak in chimichurri sauce was lovely.
The advantage of sharing all the above dishes between the 6 of us was room left for dessert!
Lemon and yoghurt pannacotta, honey financier, roasted fig (£5.50)
The panna cotta was decent – it was neither too solidly set nor too soft but had just the right wobble. The financier was tough; I didn't like it at all. The figs were OK – perhaps not carefully enough sourced, they were very bland examples of this magnificent fruit.
Peanut parfait, chocolate mousse, salted butter caramel (£5.00)
Wow! This was definitely one of those desserts that stops conversation, has everyone grinning and exclaiming and then, because it was shared, scrabbling for another mouthful and another. And then it was gone. Within seconds! Each of the three main components was excellent and the sprinklings of dried Nutella (how, I mean seriously, how?) were delightful!
Beetroot and chocolate cake, raspberry couli [sic], clotted cream (£5.00)
By contrast, this dessert was so-so. Adding beetroot to chocolate cake should add plenty of moisture as well as a rounder, fruitier flavour. In this case, that just didn't happen and the cake was a bit dry. I wouldn't send it back but I'd grumble disappointedly, if this was the only dessert I ordered.
So, after eating, drinking and feeling merry I wanted to know more about how Made in Camden came to be, and about the team behind it.
Conceived by Saul Hopwood, Operations Director of the Roundhouse, a major purpose of Made in Camden is to create funds to support the Roundhouse's work with young people in the area.
The space itself was designed by Michael Sodeau, who grew up nearby, as did Head Chef Josh Katz. Having worked as a sous chef for Ottolenghi immediately before Made in Camden, Katz is a proponent of modern Mediterranean style and created brunch, lunch and dinner menus that reflect his preference for a more casual, shared dining experience.
He is supported by pastry chef Jamie Garbutt; the two worked together at Ottolenghi. Garbutt makes a changing menu of cakes and pastries to enjoy with tea and coffee morning and afternoon.
J is for January at Made in Camden
Whether your name is James, Johan or Jesse, Julia, Jenny or Janet, Jackson, Jones or Judd you have a reason to rejoice in January at Made in Camden.
Throughout the month of January 2011, Made in Camden are offering a complimentary half pint of Camden Town Brewery Beer with every meal to anyone with a first name or surname beginning with the letter J. And not just for you but for the rest of your dining party too!
(You'll need to bring along proof of your name and can enjoy a half-pint per person per table for all those ordering a meal).