Retarded Reviews: The Compass, Islington


An odd thing happened to me the other day. Two odd things, really. First, while playing pool I potted seven balls at my first visit to the table; a clear sign that something was afoot. Normally when I play pool, the words “odd” and “foot” spring to people’s minds for quite different reasons.

The main odd thing that happened, though, was when I entered the Compass pub on Chapel Market in Islington, recently reopened under new management. Hoving to at the bar, still flushed with my poolhall success, I glanced at the menu, and saw on offer a “pickled duck’s egg with star anise.” I pointed this out to my friend, more in a spirit of mockery than hunger. Duck eggs and star anise? Madness. Then (and this was the odd bit), a genial man to our right insisted that we try one. We demurred, being several pints to the good and feeling that culinary adventurism would be pushing our already pool-drained luck.

This answer did not suffice.

Bustling into action, our host (for he turned out to be the bar’s manager) fished out an egg and a knife, and thrust them under my nose (I’m not sure which was more threatening). It seemed only polite at this point to eat the thing, so I obliged, utterly failing to maintain a facial expression that conveyed both gratitude and epicurean bliss. I think I managed “politely horrified” at best.

It has to be said, though, that I don’t really like pickled eggs. I’m sure that as an example of the genre, this was a fine one. I wasn’t expecting runny yolk, either; I thought the things were routinely hard-boiled. As a result, I reacted to the sudden emergence of pale yellow goop as if an alien face-hugger had leapt from my snack. I prefer my amuse-bouches without the money shot.

Undeterred by this apparent rejection, the manager (whose name, I think, was Paul. Or Andrew. I was drunk, okay?) decided that the only way to proceed was to provide us with a smorgasbord of ridiculously nice things. Within minutes we were presented with a wooden block topped with black pudding sausage roll (which was exactly as brilliant as it sounds*), the best scotch egg in the world (their words, not mine, but entirely true), some welsh rarebit and some marinated anchovies on toast. We attempted to pay for this, but were rebuffed.

It takes a lot to distract me from anchovies, a fish I will happily eat to the brink of extinction, but the Best Scotch Egg In The WorldTM did so in some style. I have literally no idea how they managed to combine perfectly cooked pork, crispy breadcrumbs, and an egg with a yolk so soft it ought to be used to stuff mattresses, but they have. I was advised to arrive at about 4pm to obtain the freshest specimens, and I pass this advice on to you.

To sum up: go to the Compass pub in Islington. You will find things there that you want to put in your face. The trick will be working out how to stop.

*If you don’t think this sounds brilliant, there’s something wrong with you.

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