For some time I worked down the road from an abandoned pub called the Prince of Wales. I’d always felt a bit sad for it. There it sat, on the corner in Angel, Islington, across from the Regents canal. It looked dilapidated, deserted and unloved. I had hoped some Good Samaritan would come and give it new life. You can imagine my excitement when I realized someone had taken on the challenge.
Walking past, day in, day out, I’d had the opportunity to watch the transformation. I saw the scaffolding go up, and the workmen go in. I saw them sitting outside on their coffee breaks, and heard the hammering inside. When curiosity got the better of me, I’d tried unsuccessfully to peek through the boarding surrounding the site…
When the boards came down I got to see the rich green tiling on the exterior, and the lovely mottled green below, enhanced by old style street lamps, gold fittings and red crawfish motifs. Then the signage went up. ‘Plaquemine Lock’ it stated proudly, Cajun & Creole cuisine, Po’Boys and gumbo. Gosh, I thought to myself, better give that a try.
From the outside, Plaquemine Lock looks like a beautifully renovated pub. From the inside it feels like much more. The lunch time vibe is relaxed. New Orleans style jazz emanates from the speakers. The large murals on the wall and above the bar are reminiscent of another time and place. I later discover these are originals painted by artist Haidee Becker AKA. Jacob’s (the owner) mum. The character of the pub is steeped in family history, and that seems to carry over to their lovely staff and cultural ethos.
I ask for the Slow-roast beef debris Po’Boy, a cup of vegan gumbo and some fried green tomatoes. I’m especially excited to try the tomatoes. I’ve wanted to eat fried green tomatoes ever since I had seen (and loved) the 1991 drama comedy film of the same name. Bit obscure, regardless, I had to have them.
I’m struggling now to describe how delicious I think the food is. You know when you take a bite of something, and then don’t want to speak for a full minute while you savour the experience and chew with your eyes closed? That was me when I took my first bite of the fried green tomato. Sweet, a little bit tart, the soft smooth tomato juxtaposing the crunch of the outer shell. I did it again, when I bit into the Po’Boy, the fluffy bun, creamy mayonnaise, fresh crisp salad and marinated slightly piquant beef all combining together to create what felt like the perfect mouthful. Heaven.
I did try to avoid looking like a slightly deranged cat that had just got the cream. I’m not sure I succeeded. I’m pretty sure I don’t care.
Address: 139 Graham St, London N1 8LB