Flavours are unlocked at buzzy Nook
Highbury business that was bravely launched by hard-working couple in July has rolled with the Covid punches
10 December, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
The Nook has clever details, lively cooking and positive energy
LUNCH at The Nook in Highbury was my first meal out for weeks – so we relished every morsel and moment.
Sitting by the window, my family and I happily watched the drift of life along St Paul’s Road. The local pub was doing a brisk trade in Christmas trees; cars paused at the traffic lights, each offering a vignette of strangers’ lives in times of Covid.
Inside, customers at The Nook are treated to the lively cooking and positive energy of Angus and Lale Oztek-Pook – a hard-working couple who bravely launched this, their first solo venture, in July.
Gus runs front of house; Lale handles everything in the kitchen – from the washing up to final sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.
“It can get a little bit hairy,” admits Gus.
The Nook occupies two floors of a Victorian building once leased by Prawn on the Lawn and Linden Stores. Their concept is to offer “a few different things rolled into one”, including a café, wine bar and music shop with freshly cut vinyl to take home.
The ever-changing menus start with breakfast and brunch, with dishes such as a Turkish breakfast salad or sour cherry and coconut granola with sweet yoghurt.
At lunch, specials might star a light brioche bun stuffed with brown crab and crayfish, or a sourdough toastie with feta, blistered peppers and a homemade walnut sauce.
The place gets buzzy in the evenings, when both floors tend to fill up – all socially distanced, of course. The dinner menu includes an array of vegetarian dishes or perhaps a pork shoulder marinated with Korean chilli paste, served with buttery mashed sweet potato and coriander.
Zingy flavours like this – many with a Turkish vibe – are all the more thrilling after weeks of lockdown. What’s more, the soundtrack is uplifting and the wine list is a humdinger, with plenty of intriguing choice from biodynamic producers and countries such as Georgia and Armenia.
All the cooking we tried was well done, with clever details. Chips, for example, are served with a green chilli sauce or glossy ketchup blitzed with pickled walnuts.
The brioche buns are a handful in the best possible sense – oozing fillings and designed for the age of Instagram. Every customer we saw took a photo before getting stuck in.
Business at The Nook has obviously been hit hard by Covid restrictions, with the couple relying on take-out trade for many weeks. But they have rolled with the punches and thrive on the support of locals. The take-out fridge is stocked with treats such as hummus with pickled Naga chillies and crispy chickpeas, or a family-sized aubergine parmigiana to share.
Experiences like this meal remind me how much I took for granted – from a simple hug to a lunch with friends. Grab this opportunity to eat out while you can. Let’s hope it never happens, but the capital could easily be moved into Tier 3.
The Nook Deli and Wine Bar
220 St Paul’s Road, N1