Not only is Mishkin’s the latest addition to the voguish Polpo collection of restaurants, but it describes itself as a ‘kind of Jewish deli with cocktails’. The question is: does Catherine Faulkner agree?
Mishkin’s seemed to spring out of nowhere. One minute I was heading, salivating, towards the Opera Tavern, my own personal Mecca; the next I was standing by a window declaring ‘Meat’ and ‘Gin’ in proud letters. What self-respecting career girl wouldn’t be stopped in her steps by those two words?
It figures, however, that this is run by the same team who run da Polpo, Spuntino et al and in this austere time, it’s all about soft openings and hushed, satisfied word of mouth. So we walked in off the street, desperate to escape the bilious crowds of bloated, inebriated office workers and their Christmas hats. The management were only too happy to seat us at the bar when we proffered no reservation: something I’m not sure will be so easy in weeks to come. And believe me, the bar is the place to be.
I counted at least 25 types of gin behind the counter, which is no mean feat given the small space the three tenders operate in, and there is an entire cocktail menu dedicated to this most ruinous drink. I liked the fact that these were labelled ‘refreshments’ rather than mere cocktails. So we tried three each, just in the name of refreshing ourselves. The London Cup to share was far too drinkable and represented good up-selling on the part of the staff. The barmen never tired of my endless questions and demands for suggestions, so perhaps they had availed themselves of gin too.
From the vantage point of the bar, it’s very easy to point at things and ask for ‘what he’s having’ without a hint of irony. We shared a bowl of cod cheek popcorn, which does sound like some awfully grim gimmick but it was warm and soft and crisp and whet the appetite beautifully. We then shared sandwiches, switching plates half way through as you do in such a laid back place. It seemed only right to have the all pork Big Apple Dog ‘dragged through the garden’ (a lovely image was brought to mind of a tiny little sausage dog running around Covent Garden. Actually, it came with all the trimmings, sauerkraut, mustard etc. too). Then there was Reuben on Rye with pastrami, Swiss cheese and that lovely sauerkraut again. These were great hulking, testosterone fuelled sandwiches, with traditional flavour combinations that can’t go wrong. There were dainty women at the bar, picking at bits and attempting to use cutlery. Not me. You have to eat the sandwiches with your hands, with gusto, and sod the bits of sauerkraut that roll down your chin. It enhances the taste all the more. Have some gin. It helps.
Towards the end of the evening a REAL AMERICAN came in and sat next to me. I tried to make conversation. He scowled and turned up his nose at my recommendation of the hot dog. I was delighted. This may not be an authentic Jewish or New York deli (and ignore the trite ‘story’ on the website, please) but by golly it is good. Gin and meat in the mean streets of London: how could you refuse?