By Jack Peat, TLE Editor
Take the Pulaski Bridge from Long Island City in New York and you will arrive at the most northerly tip of Brooklyn in Greenpoint. The borough, once home to a thriving immigrant community, is now awash with art studios, trendy residential conversions and artisanal gin. It’s not quite Williamsburg, but it’s a poignant representation of how Brooklyn has slowly succumbed to gentrification.
Vauxhall could almost be twinned with Brooklyn’s chic refurbished boroughs. Once reserved for London’s manual workforce its landscape still smacks of industrialisation, grit and hard work. But in the same way Battersea and its iconic power station have succumbed to regeneration, Vauxhall too is starting to get a taste for the finer things in life. Out goes Eel Pie and Mash, in comes the gastro revolution.
Set under the arches of Vauxhall Train Station, Counter is an eatery that undoubtedly wouldn’t have been allowed to exist ten years ago. Yet here it is, a stone’s throw from the street food garden and amidst a clutter of restaurants serving up cuisines from around the World looking resplendent in the summer sun.
The long room is adorned by a large island bar from which, one can only assume, it takes its name. A smattering of tables litter the open floor and several intimate booths hug the wall along the side in true New York fashion.
The menu carries similar state-side influences. An appealing salad list includes pulled chicken cobb salad and a Caesar salad with smoked turkey and polenta croutons. The mac and cheese balls with chipotle sauce came recommended, although I declined on the basis that a starch/ carb combo is a sure-fire way of ruining an appetite.
I opted instead for buttermilk fried rabbit with ‘slaw’ and ranch dressing which is a clever Anglo-American mix, if a little confused. Rabbit is a meat best handled with care, which leaves it rather vulnerable to a good old American deep frying. The scallops with fennel puree, tarragon and tangerine was a more carefully crafted combination, giving the basic ingredients a voice at the least.
My sense that there was almost a distrust in the raw ingredients was confirmed by my main course of poached halibut which was accompanied by spiced coconut puree, red peppers and coriander that punched above the weight of a delicate white fish. The herb crushed pork tenderloin was admittedly very good, but the proliferation of fish and white meat on the menu gave me the impression it was probably an exception to the rule.
Overall, I would return to Counter wiser for my first experience. Red meats and carbs are the order of the day here, anything more delicate than that will get lost amid an orgy of boisterous herbs and spices.