I'm in a quandary. I am struggling to write this review. I don't want to be harsh, or unfairly critical which can happen when you get carried away with your words and whilst we had a perfectly nice lunch, it left a bland taste in the mouth. My appetite was resolutely apathetic.
I've always wondered about the importance of the 'cost - enjoyment' intersection. You may be eating somewhere and think 'oh well this isn't fantastic, but perfectly edible and it's a bargain so it doesn't matter' and you're content because you're spending less. There are places that are cheap and terrible but people know what to expect and they thrive, but there's also places that are cheap and utterly fantastic and haven't sacrificed their quality for a lower price point - hi Slices, i'm looking at you.
So I can't deny the 2 courses for £10 I had at Pan Haggerty were perfectly fine but nothing more or less exciting than that. I visited the restaurant on a similar deal a year previous and had found the set lunch to be excellent and was hoping for a repeat experience. For £10 it was incredibly good value, but for somewhere trying to model itself as one of the high end eateries in town, I was expecting a lot more. Which begs the question, how much of the taste did they sacrifice to meet their margins when offering such cheap food?
It was mainly a few minor details, the potatoes with my fish were undercooked, the bread was oddly greasy, slow service and the starter was just plain bizarre. Billed as some sort of fish burger, it came on a huge wedge of the same house focaccia, was tragically under seasoned and had an off-putting spongey texture which meant you lost the taste and texture of the beautiful mackerel. It did however have an incredible beetroot ketchup, but the minimalist plate design meant you hardly got any.
Both mains were lovely if unadventurous, the best of which was a simple pan fried sea bream with lemony butter and pancetta and spinach. The other a large, well cooked and nicely charred pork chop with chorizo mash. The pudding was also of good quality, a moist and rich chocolate brownie and ice cream.
As I said, for £10 we had two well presented courses. So why am I left with no desire to return? The reasoning behind such a good value offer has to be the hope of convincing your guests to become returning customers, and sadly that wasn't the case. I'm sure for many it may be, or they just enjoy a good value lunch, and admittedly my 'cost-enjoyment' point is perhaps a lot higher than others, but for £10 i'd prefer to have one beautifully cooked main and still feel I was getting a good deal.
Pan Haggerty is at 21 Queen Street, NE1 3UG and are open Monday - Saturday for lunch and dinner.