For the last two years, I have been endlessly grumbling and mumbling about the lack of halal British restaurants in London. To me, it seemed like nothing more than a cruel irony that in a diverse British city where halal options are available for almost every cuisine imaginable, halal British cuisine was nowhere to be found. (Save perhaps for Yumn Brasserie in Croydon, and well, let’s be honest – who on Earth wants to travel to Croydon?). The great chase for a high calibre halal British restaurant has been well and truly on, and after all my patience, The Great Chase is precisely what has been born.
Forged by a passionate team who prize quality above all else, The Great Chase strives to push the boundaries of the halal food scene beyond anything it has ever known before, with a unique take on British fine-dining. Could this then be the restaurant that I have been longing for? To find out, I joined Haloodie Foodie, My Big Fat Halal Blog, and Halal Gems for a hearty dinner, and a much-needed catch-up.
Halal status: All of the food here is halal and tayyab, and all drinks are non-alcoholic.
The most alluring aspect of The Great Chase is by far the fact that its menu is seasonal, and so, utilises the freshest local produce available, and continues to evolve and rotate. We began our own meal with a plate of sourdough bread and a selection of interesting condiments. The sourdough itself was soft and near fluffy, and could be pulled apart with ease until the final tear of its firm crust. This combination of textures paired wonderfully with the mature and creamy goats curd, and the sensational homemade fig jam. Sweet, rich, and sharp, it could easily be sold for a £1000 a jar to Islington’s hipsters, and to doting fools like myself.
Fig Jam, Poached Beetroots and Goats Curd.
Next, we tried the flamed mackerel – served with buttermilk, pickled pears and chives. The mackerel itself was delightfully soft, flaky, and smoky, and enriched by the creamy buttermilk in which it sat. This was contrasted by the pickled pears, which delivered a sharp and sweet acidity, and cut through the entire dish.
Flamed mackerel with buttermilk, poached pears and chives (£8.50) *Recommended*
The cured duck breast was equally delightful, with a thick and soft texture that carried a subtle savoury flavour. They were however, paired with a green tomato chutney, which, though richly sweet and delightful in its own right, overpowered the nuances of the cured duck.
Cured duck breast with green tomato chutney
The goats cheese bon-bons were by comparison, a far more simplistic starter, but in my opinion, equally enjoyable. If like myself, you are a big fan of goats cheese, you will enjoy the mature piquancy of the gooey filling, which pairs well with the subtle topping of red pepper puree.
Goats Cheese Bon-Bons (£7.50)
With our appetites stabilised, we promptly moved on to our first main course – grilled duck breast and romero peppers, served upon a bed of rose harissa and buttermilk. The thick and juicy cut of duck carried a beautiful tinge of pink and a subtle gamey flavour, but seemed to lack a sufficient kick of seasoning when eaten alone. Fortunately, the combination of harissa and buttermilk did well to compensate for this, and elevated the dish entirely.
Grilled Duck Breast w/ harissa and buttermilk.
The most interesting bird on the table however – (apart from the talking dodo that is me), was the soy-glazed wild pheasant, served with crispy kale, celeriac and pickled blackberries. This was a special, limited dish for the weekend, and given how difficult it is to source halal, free-range pheasant, it was certainly appreciated and prized. The breast cuts – which had been glazed and seared, proved to be delightfully moist, meaty and flavourful, and not at all as gamey as we expected it to be. By contrast, the leg piece – which had been cooked sous-vide for four hours, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried, seemed to have dried out a little bit, and carried a much heavier, gamier flavour. As a result, there was a near-unanimous preference for the cuts of breast, which were easier on the palate, and enhanced further by the sharp, sweet acidity of the pickled blackberries.
Soy-glazed pheasant with pickled blackberries, crispy kale and celeriac.
We also tried a 32 day dry-aged Angus sirloin steak – sourced from none other than Hill Farm Finest, and served with pickled shiitake mushrooms and beef butter. The steak was faultlessly cooked to medium-rare, and the tender beef fell apart almost as readily as the soft fat that accompanied it. It could however, have done with a thicker, crunchier crust, which would have brought a few more caramelised notes into the equation.
32 day dry-aged Aberdeen Angus Sirloin (£26).
Carnivorous readers may be surprised – (and slightly outraged) – to hear that one of the favourite dishes of the night was in fact, the vegetarian-friendly sweet potato gnocchi. Soft, savoury, and rich, the gnocchi sat in perfect textural contrast to the crumbled hazelnut topping, and by the end of the night, we had pretty much polished off the plate.
Sweet potato gnocchi (£14) *Recommended*
Full and ready to slip into a permanent sleep, we decided to sample a passionfruit cheesecake to help us along the way. At first, I became a little concerned, as the cheesecake that arrived was deconstructed – (something that I often have trouble enjoying), but to my pleasant surprise, this particular deconstruction was actually rather well-constructed. The whipped mascarpone remained thick, yet light, and added body to the fine grounds of firm cookie crumble. This sweet and creamy combination was then cut through completely by the tartness of the passionfruit curd, which tingled the tastebuds.
Deconstructed passionfruit cheesecake (£6) *Recommended*
Not wanting the other desserts to feel left out, we also tried the chocolate mousse, which was sweet, thick and rich. Paired with ripe strawberries and crushed hazelnuts, it proved to be a remarkably balanced dessert in terms of both texture and taste.
Chocolate mousse (£6.50) *Recommended*
Alas, after eating the chocolate mousse, we realised that we were all short on our fruit intake for the day, and so, we also sampled the apple and plum crumble – served with a deceivingly delicious cornflake ice cream. Whilst the crumble was hot, sweet, and sharp, it also managed to completely drown out the subtler flavours of the cornflake ice cream. For that reason, we thought it would be worth incorporating the cornflake ice cream in some other form of dessert, and allowing a simple custard to complement the dominating characteristics of the crumble instead. Either way, the crumble will no doubt be a perfect winter warmer, and if you find yourself cold and alone in Islington, it may be worth paying it a visit.
Apple & plum crumble with cornflake ice cream (£6) *Recommended*
Value For Money: 4/5
Across the menu, starters cost around £7 to £8, main courses range between £14 and £26, and sides cost around £5, but given the seasonal nature of their menu, both the dishes and prices are subject to change. When one considers the quality of the produce sourced by The Great Chase, and the calibre of cooking that is utilised, these prices can be considered more than reasonable. Our own meal on this occasion was complimentary, but you should expect to pay around £30 to £35 a head for an all-out dinner.
You should also find that the staff members who make up The Great Chase team are incredibly welcoming, friendly, and helpful, and if you choose to order some non-alcoholic drinks or loose-leaf tea, you can expect to receive some light entertainment from their resident “bartenders”. Given the wildly different nature of the cuisine being served – (at least, in comparison to what most halal diners are used to), the team also make it a point to be as open and approachable as possible, so that patrons don’t feel embarrassed to ask what a particular ingredient or component may be.
This open hospitality is emphasised in the restaurant’s decor, which is rather simple and plain, and if one is being honest – doesn’t quite match up to the style of food being served. This is however, very much the point – so that anybody who walks in through the door can enjoy a “fine-dining” food experience without having to face the pretentiousness that comes with it. It may not be a suitable setting for a special occasion, but for those who may find such settings intimidating, this casual environment is certainly far more welcoming. The restaurant can seat around 30-40 people, and can be found a rather lengthy walk away from Angel station. Free parking is available nearby after 6:30pm.
For the team behind The Great Chase, the primary goal is to push halal diners out of their comfort zone, and introduce them to a new, contemporary form of halal dining. What is apparent to me, is that The Great Chase doesn’t just push the boundaries – it obliterates them. In a dining industry that continues to be dominated by burgers, mixed grills and the same old food that we have been eating for the last couple of decades, The Great Chase says “enough is enough”, and takes the first small step towards the giant leap that needs to be made. With plenty of scope to hone their skills and an ever-evolving seasonal menu, there is no doubt that they have the potential to become one of the foremost names in halal dining.
The Great Chase
Address: 316 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4NT
Telephone: 020 7998 0640