Apprehensive as I am at losing my blogging virginity, I am delighted to report that Upper Glas (rhymes with grass, to complete the pun), recently renamed and relocated to Islington, is an easy going Swedish beauty with some subtle hidden depths and no dark secrets.
Strictly marshalled preliminaries at The Angelic on Liverpool Road and Ben's date with a needle the next morning led us at a rather West Coast Americanly early 6.45 to a side door off Upper Street, up some stairs to a glowing welcome from the posh, utterly charming and traditional Swedish black and white check wrapped proprietress, Anna Mosesson.
Anna's portrait in the following day's Telegraph has a blurry background, but you may perhaps spot the classic Swedish decor, complete with barn-like construction, wooden floor, huge leafy-patterned banquette (note, what appears to be a comfily upholstered armchair in the foreground is in fact the owner herself - I blame the choice of lens), and real candle chandeliers. In the backgound is a window table at which we were lucky enough to be sat so as to enjoy the view into a pretentious modern office with a motorbike on a stand in the upper lobby, and the occasional anxious-looking salesman striding about barking into his mobile.
A worryingly thin but otherwise impeccable waiter brought us Swedish Schnapps in iced mini-flute glasses while we pondered the menu. I wish I could download it - from memory it seemed to be for the most part in Swenglish (Skagen toast - what? Laxgobbling - or something). I didn't personally find the Swedish subtitles particularly helpful, and I'm not sure they would have assisted a Swede much either, given that they all have impeccable Swenglish already. Not to worry, the Schwapps was working its magic. The selection came across as wonderfully fishy (i.e. ideal for a Friday night), thoughtfully put together and all round delicious.
We had tapas-style starters, including that Skagen toast (i.e. with prawns) - delicious. Gravlax - delicious. Marinated herring three ways - delicious all three ways, especially the mustardy way. Cured elk bits - they were actually out of elk so we had some raw cow bits instead. Still delicious. I had the grilled char on winter vegetables for a main course, and, you guessed it, it was delicious - I believe char are not that rare in Scandi-land although virtually extinct in the UK. Ben had salmon and Howard had venison meatballs with lingonberry - these dishes had them purring. Wine-wise we had bottle of Pieropan Soave Classic - a good foil for the fish. To go with the venison Howard also had a glass of Franz Haas Pinot Nero, which he slurped with satisfaction.
Well the place was starting to fill up and it became clear that the fit-out and decor really are hugely atmospheric and warm. Anna appeared at our table with an umbrella (to adjust the heating, it seems, while she personally lit every single candle). Apparently she is known to get up and sing operatic pieces if she feels further warming of the cockles might be required. It occurred to me that this would be a jolly good place for a romantic tryst, although the Japanese business folk and assorted well-cut suits seemed to be loving it anyway.
And so to pud. A raspberry tart was clearly still recovering from a stretch in the freezer . . . naughty. Valrhona chocolate mousse was nice but actually more of a muffin.. double naughty in my book, as if I ever wanted a muffin I would go to Starbucks. As if I ever would. A glass of Rooiberg muscadelle helped it down, although again its rose-ness was not pointed out in the menu . . . thank goodness it was extremely nice.
My verdict: a wonderful atmospheric experience, especially if you like fish. Great and very attentive service. Nobody really cares what the menu says unless what ultimately arrives is not only not expected but not delicious, and that was not the problem here, in fact it added to the enjoyment in a funny sort of way. They should just sort out the desserts. But overall, I loved it.
Upper Glas, First Floor: The Mall, 359 Upper Street, London N1. 0207 359 1932