DINNER DATES - FREDRICKS ISLINGTON
Frederick's has been run personally by the Segal family for three generations and I was filled with great sadness when I heard that Louis Segal (1917 – 2017) had passed away earlier this year.
As Islington has become more affluent and diverse Fredricks has grown with it but its core values remain the same. Over the decades the Fredricks brand with its distinctive blend of tradition, salivating menu, good service and relaxed ambiance means word of mouth recommendations have grabbed the attention of the young and trendy while maintaining the affection and loyalty of time-honoured customers in equal measure. Indeed, dedicated merchants that traded with Fredricks at the outset in 1969 still supply to them today. That excitement you had as a child whenever you were going to the home of a favourite relative is still in the fabric of the building today. Set back from the hustle and bustle of the Islington High Road and nestled in Camden Passage, Fredricks has established itself as a worthy rival to any West London A-List restaurant, none of which, in my opinion, can usurp Fredricks from the top of my list.
My love affair with Fredricks spans over two decades and you would be forgiven for saying that I am both bias and nostalgic. It was at a family dinner that my second eldest announced she was pregnant with my grandson who was subsequently born on my birthday and is now 18. Aged 55, whenever a return visit to Fredricks is in my calendar I count down the days and go to bed each night filled with that childlike anticipation which I eventually bring under control with the mantra "I'm going to Fredricks" playing over and over in my head until I fall asleep. We all remember that favourite relative we would love to visit. Where there was ordered chaos and happiness without the stringent rules and formality imposed at home. Where your parents seemed to relax in that particular setting displaying an understanding of your antics not normally tolerated. They would laugh more, they would talk more regaling stories of the past and would still be talking about dinner at “Auntie this” or “Uncle that” for weeks afterward.
VALENTINES 2017 - If you want to be assured of a wonderful evening, romantic setting and exposure to new world wines - Fredricks would be my first choice to celebrate Valentines and any other special occasion. The occasion is made even more special when the Maitre d lets it slip that your partner secured a table in the conservatory and has been planning the evening as long ago as November 2016.
I save the best for last and end the meal with a raspberry cream tart. We depart arm in arm with love in our hearts and a contented stomach. Leaning into each other and giggling like a couple of teenagers we step onto the kerb and merge with happy couples everywhere and begin a leisurely stroll back to the Hilton Double Tree Hotel for a nightcap.
ARRIVAL - On arrival, the warm unrehearsed welcome makes it clear the staff were looking forward to seeing me, not simply expecting me because my name is written in the reservation diary. Matt, third generation Segal can always recall my last visit to the restaurant with proficient accuracy. As the night draws in relaxed bodies are perched on bar stools, basking in the soft lights of the popular bar - The leather sofas are lined with cosy early evening diners prolonging the experience, reluctant to bring the evening to a close. The bar staff recognise me and before my coat is removed and placed in the cloakroom they begin the ritual of preparing my aperitif a classic champagne cocktail.
My love of the TV series Poirot, the bucket list wish to travel on the Orient Express, memories of time spent at the RAC Epsom means I am at home the moment my eyes behold time honoured polished cutlery and sparkling glasses fixed on crisp white table clothes and starched napkins under the glass of the new conservatory. The buzz of good conversation, laughter and clinking glasses propels me back into the fifties and all things traditional and elegant.
I am never disappointed just how eloquently the premises have evolved since my last visit without ever sacrificing that sense of “personal intimate space” afforded to each table. The contemporary artwork might not be to everyone's taste but it does not take anything away from. In this age of high tech, fortunately, the renowned "family" experience of dining at Fredricks is not something that you can buy online and is not marred by diners with their heads buried in their phones.
FINE DINING - I look at the menu resolute that I will be able to resist ordering the duck. The dishes listed are deliciously balanced. Gratifying expressions and mouth-watering glances as dishes waft by to the tables of other diners all go towards increasing my appetite and making my choice even harder. I know everything on the menu is going to taste wonderful and even if the menu has been updated or tweaked history dictates that Fredricks never lose sight of the essential basics "If it ain’t broke don't fix it".
I always say “next time I am going to try something different”. Well it’s the “next time”
and I once again am still compelled to begin my meal with Fois Gras and it was heartening when the waitress asks ”how many ounces madam”. Unashamedly I opted for the largest portion available and say to myself "now that is a tweak I can live with". I think the erotic combination of silky smooth duck Pate joined with lightly toasted warm bread is a sensual fusion to be enjoyed whenever possible. In my defence I did have Ox Cheek Ravioli for starters but if my memory serves me correctly, Fois Gras was not available on the Valentines menu.
Like all staff our waitress was very attentive and her expertise about all the dishes on the menu
guided us with our selections. Note to fellow diners further restraint will be required when assorted basket of bread is presented to you. I ask to speak to the sommelieand get his expert opinion on the extensive wine list. I throw around words like "full bodied" and "heavy". Roberto
recommends a bottle of Joel Gott 2014 Zinfande with a mild woody smoke and black-pepper note to compliment the dishes ordered. On tasting the complex yet subtle notes, orchestrate in harmony on my uncultivated palette. This oaky red then packs a punch as it glides down warming my chest like an expensive cognac. Wow was that a hot flush or the wine I ask myself? Note to self, be sure to order this wine again!!!
Convention dictates that desert should be something light or palette cleansing following such a sumptuous meal. My Instagram photo of the desert menu hashtag “decisions decisions” to friends, family and
followers alike who respond with the resounding comment “try them all”. I cannot by pass the Pear Tart Tatin and Ice Cream and persuade my partner to order the Chocolate Fondant, Mint & Chocolate Ice Cream another of my favourites for himself.
DRESS CODE - Whilst the clientele dress smart it’s your more about your subjective kind of smart. Some men wear Jackets, others are in open-necked shirts, or accessorise with silk cravats. Women dress in timeless understated elegance. I observe that what we all have in common is conversation, laughter and comfort in our unique kind of smart, which when added to the homely treatment of the staff is an addictive cocktail I covet and guard jealously.
NEW FRIENDS - That evening we struck up a conversation with a widow and widower on the neighbouring table who have been longstanding friends and both dedicated to their careers in the teaching profession. A lovesick colleague who grew up in Islington and now lives in Canada recommended the area and restaurant. Close proximity to Sadlers Wells, hotels, the City and fine dining both confirm they are hooked on the vitality and liveliness of the area.
CONCLUSION: For me Frederick’s have retained its food crown, it is chic not flashy, grandiose, stiff or pretentious. Fredricks continues to lure faithful customers over generations through its doors time and time again. Dining at Fredricks gives me untold pleasure and an assurance that they will provide a unique warmth and hospitality. Fredricks you don't need to change to "fit in" because your customers love the "we come first approach" the respectful way we are treated and the honesty of your restaurant. Once again I leave Fredricks with the familiar feeling of “I can't wait to go back.”