A ray of tropical sunshine in grey north London?
Update April 2013 – this restaurant has now closed
With some restaurants, there may be a nagging doubt in the back of your mind as to whether the ingredients used by the kitchen are fresh or not. This shouldn’t be a problem with Chez Liline however – if you’re in any doubt about the freshness of the seafood at this Mauritian seafood restaurant, then pop next door to the fishmongers beforehand. The two are owned by the same family and the restaurant seems to source most, if not all of its seafood from the fishmongers.
You might expect to find this unusual pairing in a leafy and fashionable suburb, but it’s actually located on a grey, rather unloved street just northwest of Finsbury Park in north London. The slightly chintzy decor, designed with a nautical theme from the prints of Mauritian beaches to the giant mounted swordfish head, doesn’t add much atmosphere. It’s a popular place with the locals though, due in no small part to the friendly service.
First things first
On my first visit to Chez Liline, I started off with the grilled squid and prawn salad. The salad itself, composed of peppers, cherry tomatoes and lettuce, was uninspiring, but the fresh, well-grilled seafood proved to be a perfect carrier for the peppery and slightly spicy olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chilli dressing.
The turbot and scallops in a butter sauce should have been a perfect pairing, but this dish was a bit of a let down. The herby, buttery sauce suited the firm, juicy scallops but it washed out what little taste remained of the excessively soft turbot. The latter almost tasted like any other flat fish which is a great disappointment given how distinctive turbot usually tastes.
Surprisingly, the best part of this meal was a side dish of sautéed sweet potatoes which didn’t involve seafood at all. They were addictively sweet and fluffy and blessed with a balanced flavour mixing a mild chilli sting and a herby shot of parsley.
Going back for seconds
On my second visit to Chez Liline, I opted for some lighter dishes than on my first visit as I was feeling surprisingly unravenous. I started off with grilled mackerel and pickled vegetables. The mackerel was well-grilled and was plainly seasoned with only a touch of pepper. Disappointingly, the pickled vegetables of cabbage and sliced French beans were limp and muted, lacking the strident tartness I was expecting.
The Chinese influences on Mauritian cuisine are fairly evident in my main course of John Dory served in a ginger and spring onion sauce. The thickness and the saltiness of the sauce was quite peculiar and suggested that it had been thickened with shellfish stock. The fish was firm and fresh, but the ginger flavour of the sauce was so bold that it overwhelmed the rest of the dish.
Apart from a slight spicy kick, the sautéed spinach tasted exactly as you’d expect it to (sorry folks, no photo of this one – surely you all know what spinach looks like?).
There’s little doubt that the seafood at Chez Liline is fresh, but the problem is that the quality of the cooking isn’t consistently good enough to show it off. If you happen to be in the area and you’re a pescatarian or just want a light meal then Chez Liline is worth a pit stop, but there’s little reason to go out of your way to eat there. Save up for a trip to Mauritius instead.
Name: Chez Liline
Address: 105 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3PX
Phone: 020 7263 6550
Opening Hours: usually closed on Mondays – call to confirm.
Reservations: probably a good idea on weekends.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £27 approx.