I have a real soft spot for The Craftsman. For me it's the perfect place to find a comfy sofa and while away the afternoon gazing out of the window on a chilly Autumn day with a hot cup of freshly roasted Joe. Ok, so I'm not actually a coffee drinker...but give me a pint of one of their expertly selected artisan beers which change weekly, and I'll be just as full of the warm and fuzzies.
Just minutes from Union Square, it's the ideal location for catching up with friends, or grabbing breakfast before you start the working day.
As the nights draw in, you could easily spend hours in relaxed conversation with pals under the glow of the fairy light clad, red brick walls, sharing some of their home baked cakes, and enjoying the laid back tunes that always suit the vibe perfectly.
Oh, and they're dog friendly too.. is this starting to sound like a wee corner of heaven yet?
We arrived at about one on Sunday afternoon and the place was already busy with people brunching, lunching and generally winding down from the weekend, yet the atmosphere is relaxed. As spacious as The Craftsman is, it retains that homely, cosy feel, and we receive a lovely warm welcome from our server who was quick to get us started off with some drinks as she introduced the menu.
We were really feeling the extra mile treatment here, as she asked questions about what kind of beer we might fancy, and brought over a tray of tasters to help us to decide - a really nice touch.
We went for a sour cherry beer which was just a delight. It was the perfect mix of sweet and tart, cool and refreshing.
The Craftsman is generally a soup and sandwich kind of place, usually with a hot dish or two of the day for when you fancy something more substantial. However these aren't any old soups and sandwiches; Head chef Evelina cooks with refinement and sophistication, always using fresh ingredients and with a flair for innovation. Garnishes are beautiful and complimentary, accompaniments are always well considered and bang on the money when it comes to flavour.
This Restaurant week Evelina has kept the menu simple with two soups to start and two pies for the main, with a petit four to finish, however the dishes themselves are far from simple...
Each course offers one vegetarian option, which I opted for. Tomato and barley, with fresh herbs and spinach, and a poached egg floating in the middle.
The soup was rich with flavour with a real Mediterranean feel, and the barley made it hearty and filling, just what you need to warm you up on a cold day. I was a little sceptical of the poached egg at first, but as I burst in to the perfectly runny golden yolk, the consistency of the soup became silkier and I really did enjoy it.
My mum was my lucky plus one today, and she went for the Cullen skink - a dish that you'll see cropping up on a host of menus this Restaurant week, and understandably so as it's a real Scottish favourite.
Of all the restaurants offering this Morayshire born delicacy, I really believe you'd be hard pushed to find a tastier version than this. My mum considers herself to be a connoisseur of this smoked fish based chowder, and insists that this up there with the best she's ever had - a bold statement indeed!
The creamy texture was buttery and smooth, the chunks of potato soft and perfectly seasoned, and the succulent smoked fish potent, but not overpowering. This soup also came with a poached egg and was topped with fresh herbs. This is comfort food at it's finest.
We both chose the veggie option this time as it sounded just incredible; 'Curried vegetable and chickpea pie with spiced potatoes'. I was already excited at the description of this main, but when they arrived at our table I was positively salivating!
I adored that everything was housed within the case of golden, flakey pastry as opposed to having the veg or potatoes on the side. The smoothest, most buttery mash that melted in your mouth was piped on top of a flavoursome and delicately spiced mix of rich sauce and chickpeas which gave this dish the comforting, filling element.
There was also a real elegance to this pie in the way that the tri-coloured carrots had been layered in perfect order. The small spiced potatoes provided the perfect kick of smokey paprika. I loved everything about it. Is it possible to marry a pie? Because I would marry this pie in a heartbeat.
This dish is an absolute triumph, and I was completely devastated not to have been able to finish the whole thing after the generous size of the starter!
For those who fancy a meatier main, the alternative is a 'beer braised pork shank pie, served with puff pastry, root vegetable gratin and potato puree.
A petit four (a small sweet treat traditionally served at the end of a meal) was the perfect way to round things up instead of having a full dessert option.
These gorgeous little bite-sized confections included a vegan forest berries pâte de fruits, a jelly like cube with the flavour of sweet berry jam, and a salted caramel filled chocolate, which was an absolute winner for me. The caramel was simply divine, one bowl of this with a spoon please Evelina!
You'd be absolutely mad to miss out on an incredible lunch like this all for a teeny, tiny £10 this Restaurant week, so I strongly advise that you book The Craftsman right away to avoid disappointment. I'm already planning on going back and treating myself to another of those amazing pies. Diet starts Monday, right?