Odette’s – Primrose Hill

For me Camden Town on a Saturday is literally one of the most hellish places on earth. Today I’m visiting there to see a play. Above a pub. It’s free and it’s press day, and my friend is reviewing. As it goes it turns out to be actually really good.

At six o’clock we leave the theatre and both of us want to get as far away as possible from the grotty souvenir shops and over excited teenagers.

After just a ten minute walk we are in leafy Primrose Hill – a world away from Camden high street. I used to come here a lot back in the day but it’s been a while. On the hunt for dinner, my friend suggested Odette’s, somewhere that’s been on my radar for years now.

I knew this place has been a longstanding firm favourite with locals, but I’ve only made it to one of the many pubs on my previous visits (some I now understand have been made into flats – sigh).

The area was once the home to ‘Supernova Heights’ and the Primrose Hill set – Noel Gallagher, Patsy Kensit, Sadie Frost, Kate Moss et al. The celebrities here are less prominent these days and the paparazzi seemed to have moved on elsewhere.

Regent’s Park Road is still a nice spot to while a way the hours and people watch. It’s a rare sunny eve so we sit outside. Despite not having a reservation it was no problem bagging a table and the set menu looked pretty good value for such a highly lauded restaurant.

Odette’s been going since 1978 but is now owned by handsome Welsh chef Bryn Williams who formerly worked under Michel Roux and Marco Pierre White. He also owns a bar and restaurant in Colwyn Bay, and appeared on the Great British Menu where he cooked for Her Maj’s birthday.

The set menu is £22 for 2 courses and £27 for three so not bad in my opinion. We start with a G&T and my Welsh friend (and I) are thrilled to hear they have Brecon gin from their list of just four.

We’re brought a basket of delicious soda bread with homemade butter, and crisps served with an amazing garlicky dip. I could have quite easily eaten that all night to be honest.

Aside from the food the highlight was two very glamorous, very Welsh ladies in their sixties sitting next to us, who declared very loudly they had been to Bryn’s restaurant in Colwyn Bay just so we all knew.

There are just two options per course on the set menu, but neither of us are picky so everything was up for grabs. We both chose cured sea trout with garden beetroot (which is white!) and smoked rosemary. It was light and fresh – the smoked rosemary a great accompaniment which I wouldn’t have thought would have worked with fish.

Until today I hadn’t eaten cooked lettuce that I can recall. In this meal we ate it twice (by choice) and I’m a massive convert.

I choose the lamb (Welsh I’m assuming) which consisted of lamb fillet and a kidney which I wouldn’t go for ordinarily, but was ruddy lovely particularly when complimented by an oozing garlic sauce and braised lettuce.

We chose sides of summery new potatoes with seaweed and lettuce cooked, with Parmesan and breadcrumbs which is something I’m going to try and recreate at home.

We share a dessert of Caerphilly, Bara brith (a fruit bread to the uninitiated – me) and pear chutney. The perfect end to a great the meal.

There are two testing menus on offer one of them vegetarian for £49 which is worth noting for anyone seeking a special occasion veggie meal that isn’t predictable or unimaginative.

I can’t comment on the atmosphere in the restaurant but based on the service we received and food we had I’d imagine it would be pretty spot on.

The residents of Primrose Hill are lucky to have such a great local eatery, and for the rest of us a perfect venue to escape to for some laid back Welsh sophistication.

PS I’ll be previewing another Welsh eatery this month Tom Simmons on Bankside before it opens so look out for that.

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