Karl Chads writes… Living up to the reputation of a legend is difficult. Therefore, Florians, the place to be seen in Crouch End in the ‘00s, was always going to be a tricky act to follow. The food back in those halcyon days was pitched perfectly to its audience, and the ambience was masterfully managed without the need for tightly-grouped dining times.
What went wrong? Crouch End surrendered its crown as the monarch of cool, and this unassuming spot by the Clocktower fell by the wayside. Fast-forward fifteen years and the restaurant is back in a new guise, minus a dollop of desirable. The branding is pretty much as was, with an extraneous “2” following the proper noun. How bizarre.
The service is a mile away from the hail-fellow-well-met localese of yore, giving way to the type of atmosphere you’d expect in a neighbourhood restaurant anywhere on this isle.
My starter of five Italian cheeses including pecorino, parmiggiano and gorgonzola (generally served with walnuts, although not in my case given my allergy) and honey was generic and too sweet. My companion enjoyed her salami and cheese starter, citing strong yet not overpowering flavours, bolstered by firm, ripe textures.
The food ramped up a gear, though, demonstrating the variety of ingredients and the range of cooking techniques that are dismissed by people who think of Italian cuisine as pizza and pasta. The veal chop served with rocket and Sicilian cherry tomatoes looked authentic, and hit the right notes with my companion’s rustic English taste.
Rosemary roast potatoes, French fries and mashed potatoes were incongruous side-orders on a menu that did not appear well-balanced in terms of provenance or textured; we swerved sampling these more eclectic items on the menu.
My pescetarian palate was pleased by the grilled tuna steak with sautéed broccoli, anchovies and roasted cherry tomatoes; exactly the right blend of textures. The profiteroles were excellent, though it would have been nice to see a wider selection of options on a dessert menu dominated by ice creams and sorbets.
Florians2 is definitely distinct from the original Florians, a new incarnation rather than a reboot. It is a reasonable restaurant that does not particularly shine in a locality so fixated on food, however it offers a decent quality of cuisine in a low-key style.