Mishkin is the latest in Russell Norman’s empire of trendy soho eatries (Polpo, da Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino). While Spuntino deals in hangover food and the Polpo siblings in Italian, Mishkin serves food that is vaguely Jewish in origin, though it is not strictly kosher. Although clearly influenced by the well-known New York delis, such as Carnegie Deli and Katz (famous for many reasons, including being the location for a famous scene from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”), Mishkins is aimed at a younger, cooler crowd than turn up at those venerable New York delis. The name refers to an Ezra Mishkin who reputedly opened a restaurant in this street in 1931, though the current Mishkin opened in November 2011. The menu inevitably features salt beef, lox and chopped chicken liver, to give you a flavour of what is on offer. Just as at the other Norman ventures, the small plate format gives a clever illusion of low prices. Macaroni cheese at £9 will be a profitable dish, for example, though to be fair it was generous in proportion.
There was a short list of less than a couple of dozen French wines, ranging in price from £19 to £42, with an average mark up of just under four times retail price. The one with the lowest relative price was Chablis from Jean Claude Bessin 2009 at £39 for a wine that retails at around £17. The dining room, as in the style of its New York role models, has a basic café format. There are small tables, tiled floor and uncomfortable chairs that encourage diners to vacate their seats and allow more turnover; there is one cosy booth at the far end of the dining room, and the fittings appear to be conjuring up the image of a 1950s style US diner.
Chopped liver was a hearty concoction served with toast and having plenty of liver flavour, though I was not impressed with the radish served with it, which lacked taste (2/10). Reuben sandwich was quite traditional: corned beef served on toasted rye bread with pastrami (beef that is partially dried, then smoked and steamed), sauerkraut, Russian dressing (ketchup, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, celery seed, Worcester sauce, and grated onion) and Swiss cheese. This was the best of the dishes that I tried, the blend of flavours good, the seasoning well judged: a fine sandwich (easily 3/10).
Fish finger sarnie was also pleasant, the batter crisp, the tartare sauce having decent bite (2/10). Kipper mousse was simple but enjoyable enough, again with good balance of seasoning (2/10). Chips were served hot but were not very crisp (1/10) and I was rather disappointed by the macaroni cheese, which was rather gooey in texture and for me needed more bite and deeper cheese flavour (1/10). The bill came to £18 a head with tap water only for plenty of food to share for lunch. At no point did I think “I’ll have what she’s having” but Mishkin’s is a very pleasant casual dining experience.