Karl Chads writes… Surrounded by beauty unbounded, Swains Lane is a quaint thoroughfare surrounded with scenery reminiscent of a Turner landscape painting, so on that superficial basis one may be surprised to find a restaurant’s that’s mainstay is magnificent Mediterranean meze coupled with a broad, bold wine list.
The Carob Tree sits pretty with Parliament Hill to the west and both Holly Lodge and Waterlow Park to the east. Tranquillity is the selling point of this peaceful part of north London, with little by way of restaurants, which made me wonder how enjoyable my post-hike dinner would be. The softly bleached stone exterior exudes Mediterranean, and the welcoming is warm without being clingy.
As with most things of the highest quality, the Carob Tree’s cuisine lets its quality speak for itself. Authenticity is the defining theme, with this family-run’s menu maintaining the focus on fine ingredients and dishes that resonate, on paper, visually and when you finally taste the flavours in your mouth.
The sustainable sourcing of ingredients assured, it is not so much the magic of the dishes that hits you, more the consistent quality. A sure-fire way to tell when pescatarians and vegetarians are at the bottom of a restaurant’s dining order is when mounds of raw salad with flash-fried halloumi reach your table before your carnivorous companion’s order has reached the kitchen.
Not so at the Carib Tree, where dishes pass through the pass (as it were) at consistent rates, whether veggie, pesci- or full-blown meaty.
My fellow diner (full disclosure, my girlfriend, who has a professional interest in the culinary arts) cited the quality of the smoked and mashed “eggplant” (please, menu, re-phrase that as aubergine for us Englanders), garlic and peppers, topped with chopped, char-grilled chicken shish and thick Turkish yoghurt.
The fasulye (green beans in a tomato, onion, garlic and herb sauce served with yoghurt and rice) was a good impromptu sharer, and the wine list stuck true to bold Mediterranean reds and whites.
The Carob Tree is the type of place you would stay for hours, not just in my case as a mile-weary hiker, but as a destination diner. If you go out of your way for one venue this summer, make it the Carob Tree