Growing up in DC, I have always had a fascination of all things that are "across the pond." Everything from red telephone booths, to tea and scones, to 'bangers & mash' make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And I remember going to London for the first time and really feeling how "old" the city really is. I know that DC and New York City are pretty old as well, but London - as you know - is pretty ancient. But London (and England as a whole) is a place that knows how to mesh its rich history with the current day, and it's definitely at the top of my list of favorite cities.
One of Britain's best contributions to society would have to be the "public house," or "pub" for short. The British are geniuses for setting up these establishments meant for the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Throw in a little pub grub like salted crisps, pasties, and fish & chips, and you've got one hell of a good time ahead.
In the early 90s, a counter culture in Britain began to stem from the iconic public house concept. As "foodie" culture began to evolve around the world, the British began to take the concept of a fully-operable restaurant placed within a pub. Thus, a renaissance in pub and dining culture in Britain was born, as was the concept of the "gastropub."
The gastropub may not be as gritty as a pub can be known to be, however it is still a place where drinks are enjoyed plentifully. Couple this with carefully prepared food that goes above and beyond "pub fare," and you've got yourself a laid-back, foodie paradise. On our side of the pond, AGAINN proudly serves as a great venue to hang-out, eat, and drink to your heart's contentment.
Pronounced "aguinn" (a-g-uin), this recent addition to Washington, DC's list of trendy restaurants bills itself as a "contemporary British Isles Bistro." Like most of the new food establishments that are popping up around the city, AGAINN prides itself in the sourcing and use of local produce, and meats and seafood that are more or less organic and sustainable.
At the helm of AGAINN is Executive Chef Wes Morton, who spent some time in London prior to the restaurant's opening. There he found inspiration for many of the restaurant's offerings. He also brings a wealth of experience from some of the restaurant world's top spots like Thomas Keller's Yountville, CA mainstay - French Laundry, Michel Richard's DC restaurant maven - Citronelle, and Houston's award-winning *17 restaurant at the Alden Hotel.
Like most of the city's new restaurants, it capitalizes on an industrialized space: stone & wood floors, dark metal accents, and dim lighting. Hardwood table tops line the glass-windowed walls along the side of the restaurant, while booths and banquettes occupy the middle --giving that added touch of comfort that you'd usually find in a classic pub. The bar area is bustling, and the libations are plentiful. Beer on tap, beer in bottles, and top shelf alcohol (along with well selections) are of importance here. Like any restaurant, an extensive wine list is offered, as well as an interesting "Scotch List" which is sure to bring out the Englishman in all of us. At the bar I ordered a Manhattan as I waited for my table, and I can honestly say that the attention to detail that the mixologist gave to my drink perhaps made it the absolute best Manhattan (with Maker's) that I've ever had.
The food, just as well, was not a disappointment. My friends and I decided to partake in the 'restaurant week' menu that was being offered. Two of us decided to start with the pan-seared diver scallops, which were served on a bed of sunchoke puree & watercorss broth, with parsnip crisps as a garnish. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and were 'melt-in-your-mouth' good. Another friend went with the beetroot salad: a mixture of frisee, walnuts, young goat cheese, and honey dressing; a light and flavorful start to dinner. For the main course, my friends both went with the Tamworth pork belly, which was served with Anson Mill's white grits, smoked tomato jus, and baby mizuna (Japanese mustard leaves). It honestly tasted like it came fresh from my mother's kitchen; the rich flavors of Philippine lechon topped with culinary refinery. I, on the otherhand, decided to go the full length of the Brit experience with the steak & chips --an 8 oz Hereford hanger steak served with bone marrow persillade. I, myself, am a "fry guy." In this instance, the "chips" definitely took a back-seat to the hanger steak, which was full of flavor and tender. To follow, we each ordered our own sticky toffee pudding; a warm bread & toffee pudding glazed with toffee sauce, and served with stout ice cream; a delectable end to an amazing experience.
AGAINN also offers a raw bar, charcuterie plates, and is open for lunch and Sunday brunch ($5 mimosas!). And a pub, gastro or not, wouldn't be a pub without "pub grub." Scotch eggs, Guinness-soaked pretzels, and ale-battered cod fingers can be enjoyed alongside specialty cocktails like Pimms Cup No. 13 or a Yeoman Afternoon.
Located in the neighborhood of the city's new-ish convention center, and near other foodie spots such as Acadiana and Brasserie Beck, this DC restaurant is sure to have you coming back again... and again. (No pun intended.)
AGAINN, 1099 New York Avenue (doors on 11th St.) NW, Washington, DC 20001, 202-639-9830
(Photos from the restaurant's website.)
1 year ago