Cooking Italian Bubble and Squeak in a Former Sandwich Shop
All photos by Jake Lewis.


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Cooking Italian Bubble and Squeak in a Former Sandwich Shop

The small plates found on every self-respecting London menu stem from the guy now creating European-inspired dishes in this sandwich-shop-turned-restaurant.

I make my way to Oldroyd restaurant in North London with the intention of cooking alongside chef proprietor Tom Oldroyd but on stepping through the door, my hopes of donning chef's whites evaporate. There's no room for hangers-on in this tiny kitchen.


Oldroyd, North London. All photos by Jake Lewis.

Despite its spatial limitations, the three month-old restaurant has been lavished with praise by food scribes and is booked-out almost every night. No real surprise when Oldroyd learned his craft under "Modern British Cooking" pioneer Juliet Peston at the fêted Alistair Little in Soho, followed by a stint at Italian tapas restaurant Bocca Di Lupo before going on to be chef director for the Polpo group of restaurants—all within five years.


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Yep, that smattering of Venetian-style small plates on every self-respecting London menu stems from the dude now doing his knees in in a former sandwich shop on the culinary wasteland of Islington's Upper Street.

But crucially, it's his ex-sandwich shop, gutted and refitted with the help of his dad and other family members. Intimate but not crammed, Oldroyd feels like someone's dream come true. Which it sort of is.


Chef Tom Oldroyd. Ceps or porcini mushrooms.

"I fell in love with hotels when I was eight," says Oldroyd. "I worked front-of-house in hotels, bars, and restaurants, then I moved into the kitchen as I thought, If I'm going to do this, I should do it properly."

Having dabbled in dining styles, Oldroyd now serves only the dishes he truly adores.

"There are so many concepts and fads but I came back to what I love cooking and that's European food—memory food, holiday food," he explains. "I love Spanish, French, and Italian food so it had to be all of that."

The season's offerings also have considerable sway over the kitchen's output.

"I suppose our suppliers write our menu more than we do," Oldroyd says. "Depending on what's in, we make it work with the space we have."

Having only been open since July, the restaurant doesn't yet have a signature plate so instead, I am to be the guinea pig for a new dish-in-progress: gnocchi, black cabbage, grilled ceps, and Berkswell cheese. Except by the time I arrive, sausage has been added in place of cheese.


"It was missing something fatty but you could take that out if you wanted to, or bacon could be really good," Oldroyd explains.

"No Berkswell?" I ask.

"No. Or let's put that in as well," he decides. "We'll try it."

Oldroyd begins by chopping the black cabbage (a.k.a. "cavolo nero" or "black kale") before plunging it into salted water for three minutes and refreshing in ice water to keep the colour.

"It always takes longer than people think," he adds. "They worry so much about overcooking vegetables that they undercook them."

Gnocchi is reclaimed from the freezer, sausages relieved of their casings, and fresh ceps (a type of mushroom also called "porcini" or "penny buns") sliced up. Does he have any rules when naming dishes? Why "black cabbage" and not "cavolo"?

"It depends what's on. I'm a menu nerd," admits Oldroyd. "We had zucchini fries and a courgette risotto on but I called it 'courgette and cobnut risotto' as it sounds better. 'Gnocchi and cavolo nero' isn't as good as 'gnocchi and black cabbage,' but I wouldn't say 'potato dumpling.'"


The meat—and you can use any good sausage here—is browned off and the mushrooms nudged under the grill before the gnocchi joins the pig in the pan to gain some colour, followed by the black cabbage and grated Berkswell. Plated up, the ceps sit on top with olive oil and lemon juice drizzled over.

It looks and smells like the epitome of autumnal eating and a dish that could be eaten at any time of day.


"I would love to have that for breakfast—stick a fried egg on top. Comfort food. Winter breakfast, or lunch, or take the sausage out and have it as a starter. Quite a versatile dish that," Oldroyd says, as we eat. "We have a spring cabbage hash on at the moment, or 'bubble and squeak' as it should be called, so this can be 'Italian bubble and squeak.'"


Whatever it ends up being called, this first attempt is supremely moreish. But of course, it's not quite Oldroyd standard.

"That's not far off is it? Now I'm going to try it again and again and see what it takes to get it right," he says. "I might do it with cheese just on top and different sausage.

I silently wish I could get a permanent job as tasting guinea pig but instead, as the autumn chill sets in, I'll have to brave the N1 shopping strip again in search of this tiny sandwich-shop-turned-restaurant.

All photos by Jake Lewis.