We’ve all had those crushes. You know, the kind where secretly, you know you shouldn’t but your heart just races a little and you subconsciously lick your lips a little at the slightest thought of it. Your fingers start playing with your necklace (or chest hair/plain normal hair) and it’s like you’re looking at the world through a toy camera- everything except your object of desire becomes a blur…
Ok. Deep breath. Let’s gloss over how Matthew Lewis suddenly became so incredibly hot (something that completely escaped the remainder of the male cast of Harry Potter), and come back to the secret crush of Mishkin’s. A stalwart of the burgeoning Polpo empire, E. Mishkin’s apparently (a nth person rehash of modern mythology told through press releases and food blogs; you really can’t get much more meta than that) harks back to 1931, where Erza Mishkin, a Jewish Ukranian orphan/ immigrant (whose parents were tragically murdered) opened his eponymous restaurant. No, I can’t help that it read like the back cover of a Lemony Snicket book, so I’m going to skip ahead to the ‘it’s a Jewesq (not jewish) deli’ bit. Yes, you heard me right. This is no ordinary Jewish Deli, it’s a kinda Jewish deli where the Kashrut gets thrown out of the window (I swear at one point they served pork dogs, alas the menu has since been changed and currently there are no piggies or crustaceans available).
Throw in a dark wood interior, some fancy lights and slightly ironic ketchup and mustard bottles (oh and the ‘hand job soap’), and you’ve got a quintessentially hipster joint. Some fairly decent 4* food and drink in a hipster joint a favorite restaurant does not make, yet if I don’t get a fix at least biannually, I start getting a bit grouchy and try to force people go to Mishkin’s with me (even worse than my Nopi thing, though admittedly homemade courgette fritters keep that at bay somewhat successfully and people seem to be more willing to indulge in some Ottolenghi).
Luckily, fellow boozy buncher Grant was kind enough to come with me to understand why I like it so much (and lucky for me, I got to go twice in a month!):
We drank some lovely cocktails- a cherry coke manhattan and a burnt orange/ maraschino martinez for me (yes, I do love a cocktail with a bit of cherry in it) and a g&t and a maple old fashioned for Grant. All 3 (you really can’t judge a G&T- All I would say is that both the G & the T were artisanal) were fantastic but on the unfurnished side (I suppose they believe in BYO cocktail decorations). While I do dearly wish that my cocktails came with a cherry in them, they were well balanced and very tasty. 8/10 for cocktails!
For food we split the cod cheeks, chopped liver, turkey schnitzel, courgette salad, mac and cheese and onion rings/fries half and half (this is no longer on the menu but they are more than happy to do it for you). The schnitzel was really crispy and fresh (as were the rings, though I prefered my fries skinny) and the courgette/zucchini salad (where I missed out the giant ‘salad’ bit and was expecting hot grilled courgettes) offered a refreshing and delicious contrast to our otherwise hearty meal. I thought the cod cheeks were better the last time I was there (then realising every other time I’ve been to Mishkin’s I’ve been a little… tipsy) but thought the chopped liver was quite tasty (I think Grant thought it was too grainy, I suppose it was a bit grainy. Not chunky like a brussels style pate but not smooth, a strange inbetween texture) though both were a tad bemused by the giant melba toast masquerading as a piece of french bread underneath. The food was tasty and comforting but if I have had the food as a blind tasting, meh, probably not somewhere where I would voluntarily request come back time and time again (let’s give it a solid 6/10).
It’s been 2 weeks since our visit and I still feel a bit flummoxed by my secret crush on Mishkin’s. And apparently, it wasn’t just me- we came on a hump day and the place was still heaving with people. Is it the small yet potent cocktails? Maybe people (unlike what the press tells us) actually don’t care about carbs and fried food? Maybe it’s the hand job soap? Or does the myth of Mr. Mishkin draw them in?
Part of me feels that it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had great times there and perhaps it’s because when you walk into Mishkin’s, the combination of retro diner infused with flavours of your (possibly imaginary Jewish) gran’s flat whisks you away from London. Top that off with some choice libations and heaps of comfort food and you get one hell of a comfort blanket of a restaurant.
*My favourite (yes I have a favourite) table is the wooden booth in the back. It really doesn’t fit in more than 4 people (in fact I suspect it’s better for romantic dalliances as they always look at us a bit funny when we ask for it) but it guarantees a hoot (provided you went with good company) and afford a very private, cozy and special dining space for no extra pennies in central London. Again, just ask. They’re a very lovely accommodating bunch (another tic in the ‘pro’ column).
It breaks my heart to say this, but sadly Miskins closed in Feb 2016. Hopefully they’ll reopen somewhere else but I’m not holding my breath on that one. Shame, as I liked it so much more than other members of the Polpo empire.