METER Bar and Eatery, Old Street
A little bit of Italy in Islington.
One such beckoning came from METER London, bar and eatery - a new venture from DJ James Priestly.
The decor is minimalist chic, with faded green leather sofas, concrete walls and the sort of tables you'd expect to find in a 70s teachers' lounge. Itchy settled comfortably on the sofas, facing out to the street - perfect for a bit of people watching. We noticed that most tables are canteen-style, ideal for pre-night out gatherings, but were also pleased to see a couple of slightly more private tables for two... so a date night here is not completely out of the question. Although, as the venue is owned by a DJ we wouldn't be surprised if the music goes up a notch or two after 9 so don't be expecting to whisper sweet nothings...
We started with the most important thing: cocktails. With a reasonable price range, from £7-12, we were eager to get stuck in. The Rhubarbomb, mainly ordered for it's amazing name, was sweet, strong and unsurprisingly rhubarb-y. On the other end of the taste scale, the Sultry Nectar was spicy, with basil and chilli complementing the mango and rum perfectly. We happily sipped these while making the all-important decision: what's for dinner?
The menu offers a variety of starters and mains, but we knew that the real selling point of METER was the pizza. Authentic Neapolitan style, served on a meter-long board, our eyes lit up as we saw it being delivered to other tables. We were sold. There are a variety of toppings on offer, all slightly different to your standard Pizza Express fare, but we plumped for the Cotto e Patate and Fiorentina. They came out of the kitchen what seemed like minutes later in a sort of weird love child of two pizzas - Cotto at one end, Fiorentina at the other - a bit like the CatDog of the pizza world, if you will. (Ideal for sharing, but could provoke arguments in the greedy.)
The Cotto was chosen merely because it didn't have tomato, opting instead to have a mashed potato topping accompanied by - if we're honest, we were slightly scared about this, but we felt in the name of research it was only fair to venture into new territory. The verdict? It really shouldn't work, but it does. The potato gives the pizza an addictively mushy texture. Don't listen to what your mum says about double carbs - this is a real treat. The Fiorentina was more familiar ground - yummy spinach and mozzarella alongside egg. We were a little sad to see that the egg was clearly pre-hard-boiled and divided into yolk and white "bits", as normally we're the kind of people that enjoy a soft-boiled egg on our pizza. (Yup, those people.) Hard-boiled egg aside, it was delicious, with a crispy and puffy crust and just the right amount of topping to keep us happy.
After this feeding frenzy we were unsure if we could venture into dessert territory, but on seeing that they were a steal at just £4 AND seemed to be authentic Italian delicacies, we just couldn't stop ourselves. And boy, are we glad we did. Served in pretty glasses, these desserts are a cream lover's dream. The Tiramisu was just chocolatey enough to satisfy our inner addict, but also delicately soaked with espresso, and the Pera Cotta (wine poached pear with yoghurt cream, ginger crumble and chocolate shavings) was the perfect sweet treat to end a surprisingly authentic Neapolitan meal, considering we were just seconds away from Old Street tube station.
Itchy recommends a visit to METER as the start of a night out, or as a convenient meeting point for a group of friends – it’s not as posey as it could be (We even saw a family of tourists happily munching on pizza… as far from indie as you can get, really). The prices are reasonable, the tunes are good and, if nothing else, the waiters all have excellent hair (from a Rasta Johnny Bravo to a sort of Boris Johnson wannabe in female form, it was entertainment enough for us.) Just remember to take exit 5 from the tube unless you want to be lost on the Old Street roundabout for all eternity. Seriously.