Before becoming the Plimsoll, the pub on the corner of St Thomas’s and Plimsoll Road was known as The Auld Triangle. It was a Finsbury Park boozer popular with locals and Arsenal fans. A proper Irish drinking hole. Guinness was around the £3 mark and packs of Taytos were much less. It was full of red shirts, red walls and red cheeks. We liked it a lot. Now though, it’s different. It serves escabeche, parmigiana and Basque cheesecake. It’s different, but it’s great.
The Plimsoll opened thanks to the goodwill of a Kickstarter campaign, grit and a preeminent cheeseburger. Four Legs (the chef duo of Jamie Allan and Ed McIlroy) made their name nearby at the Compton Arms where they helped create and nurture a delicious and fun kind of pub eating. Here, they’ve taken their winning combination of gutsy small plates and estate sale floral crockery to the next level. A property makeover show might describe the pub as ‘respectively restored’. We’d say it’s precisely the right side of dingy chic.
Inside the lights are low and it’s full of chatting bodies. The floorboards have had a scrub but they still have the aura of several decades of the black stuff being spilled onto them. Best of all is that locals, young and old, Gooner or not, can (and do) still come here for a pint. The kitchen isn’t properly open on weekends or matchdays, while during the week there are Supreme-drop-type scrums for a table. It all feels quite WIP, sort of on the hoof, like a lot of the best feeling pubs tend to.
Should you be able to nab a table - your best bet is checking the morning of - then you’ll have Four Legs’ trademark forever-changing menu to look forward to. It could be a glorious pile of grated gouda and caesar sauce masquerading as a friseé salad. Or the soon-to-be canapé of the decade that is deep-fried oysters and tartare sauce on corner-shop baguette. Perhaps a delicate seafood escabeche fresh with lime and green pepper. Or maybe a gutsy chicken schnitzel topped with bhuna sauce and melted mozzarella with raita on the side. Their style is high and low, strong flavours and subtle ones. Not everything here is spot on, but that’s okay.
For a pub part-built on fundraising and friendship, it’s no surprise that The Plimsoll isn’t exactly Amazon Fresh seamless. But that’s because unlike a dystopian supermarket that might well take your blood type as you eat its BLT, this place cares. They care about the people who used to drink here and the people who are going to eat here tomorrow. Sure, they might get a dodgy keg of Guinness and the toilets aren’t exactly The Ritz, but it’s a pub. It should be perfectly imperfect.
Yes, that’s right, chipolatas. A plate of lovely, caramelised, skinny sausages, with a puddle of homemade ketchup. What could be more perfect than a pile of sausages and a cold pint beside them? Very little.
Contrary to their famous cheeseburger and fondness for robust foods, delicate seafood plates are often the best thing you can order from the Four Legs kitchen. Their zesty, lime-heavy escabeche can appear in mussel, scallop, or mixed seafood varieties, and is a sharply delicious small plate.
Few things hit the spot quite like deep-fried finger food. It’s a combination made not in heaven, but oil. Lovely, bubbling, oil. Throw a breaded oyster in there, lay it on a dollop of aioli or homemade tartare that sits upon the finest of vehicles - stodgy, slightly sweet, supermarket baguette - and you have a great drinking snack.
Molluscs are a favourite here. Previously they were often found paired with a fiery, umami-filled XO sauce, but you may just as likely see them simply paired with garlic and parsley. Either way, you’ll want to get them with a side of bread.
As fellow suckers for seafood, a piece of hake or a lemon sole will always jump out to us. While the flavours are always on point, the cooking can sometimes be a little off and a tad over.
The famous dexter cheeseburger continues to be an outstanding piece of beefy, buttery, craftsmanship. It’s all meat, cheese, sauce, and gherkins: no lettuce. And that’s just how we like it. If you’re not into McDonalds-style burgers, you may not like this. But the odds are, you will.
An established favourite in London restaurants, the Basque-style burnt cheesecake is also a regular at the Plimsoll. It isn’t the best around - there is a lot of competition after all - but it’s still a nice way to end your meal.