Despite the good number of tasty gastropubs in Islington, it’s still nice when a new one opens in the ‘hood. The Compass has been open about three months, and for a place that doesn’t want to be known as a gastropub (they insist they’re a pub that happens to serve food – whaaat?), the place is packed with dining tables.
Jon and I have eaten at the Compass twice now. Once on a Friday night, and another time for Sunday roast. On a busy Friday night, despite having booked a table for 9 pm, Jon and I stood around near a till for several minutes trying to figure out who to speak to. When someone finally made eye contact, we were shown to a table that already had someone sitting there. Uh, no thanks.
So we had a drink at the bar (the beers on tap are varied – I was especially happy to see a hefeweizen) and waited for a table to open up. I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere, but really, what was the point of making a booking?
Seated with our menus, I could see that the Compass is trying to be much more than a pub. For example, they offered a roast foie gras starter for £8. Not a slice of terrine, but a whole slab of foie. At that price, I had to try it, and you know, it was really good. The accompanying roast peach and fig were sweet and smoky complements to the salty. rich meatiness of the foie gras. I should’ve stopped eating right there because it was a meal in itself.
Jon’s chili-cider mussels arrived in a small portion and tasted much less interesting than the description on the menu suggested. The mussels were plump, but I didn’t taste any chili kick in these, and there didn’t seem to be much difference in cooking the mussels in cider versus a white wine. Still, they were good steamed mussels.
Speaking of wine, the Compass offers at least a dozen wines by the glass or by the 500 mL carafe. I like places that do that.
My main course of roast partridge was also straightforward and comforting, with tender meat and crispy skin. But the accompanying mushroom cream sauce had congealed over a bit, so the visual put me off eating it. What little I tried tasted intensely of mushrooms, but I couldn’t get past the gloppy appearance.
On Sundays, the Compass offers a more limited menu. Last weekend, the choices were a roast rib eye, a risotto, and a pan-fried skate. I was glad my roast arrived looking pinkish-red, and the meat was tender and juicy. The horseradish sauce was much welcomed, and the steamed veg and Yorkshire puddings were tasty and attractive sides served separately to keep them crunchy, I guess. The Yorkshire pudding could’ve tasted more of pan drippings, but I suppose I do like my YPs on the oily side.
The pumpkin risotto was also a (surprise) winner, with the rice perfectly al dente but creamy and the pumpkin adding just the right amount of sweetness.
Overall, the Compass is a nice addition to the neighborhood. The decor and service aren’t stand-outs, but the food – while simple – is well cooked. With drinks and service, both our meals cost about £30 per person.
The Compass, 58 Penton Street, N1 9 PZ (towards the end of Chapel Market away from the M&S and Waitrose); 020 7837 3891; closest tube station: Angel