I get really, really excited when new restaurants open in our neighborhood. One of the perks of downtown living is having an abundance of dining destinations right outside your door. Kabab House has saved the day on countless, "B, I'm going to be working really late" nights (see here). Brasserie Beck makes for a great neighbor too: mussels, fries, Belgian beer across the street = awesome (see here). When Againn opened a few months ago, I couldn't wait to test it out to see what kind of neighbor it would be.
Againn (pronounced "aguinn"), is a Gaelic word meaning "with us." The restaurant bills itself as a "contemporary British Isles Bistro" and serves modern interpretations of British Isles pub classics. You can even rent your own scotch locker if you're into that sort of thing.
I applaud the designer of the restaurant for making a small space feel both spacious and cozy at the same time. The two rows of booths are offset at different heights to enhance the privacy and give each row a view out the large windows. On this particular night, the snow was coming down fast and furious, and we were delighted to be inside Againn in a cozy booth with a cozy beer to match.
Our very outgoing waiter pointed us in the direction of the charcuterie menu for our first course. He highly recommended the Potted Pork which is something that, based on the name, I never in a million years would've ordered on my own. I'm glad I overlooked the scary name and listened to the waiter. A glass jar was filled with a pate of confit pork shoulder that you spread over garlicky bread and topped with sweet onion marmalade and tangy mustard. Even the description sounds gross, but somehow it just worked.
When I tell my stomach that we're having British pub food, it tells me we're having fish n' chips. Againn's version featured one massive (and delicious) piece of fish served atop English egg sauce. The fries were thick-cut and served piping hot, making a perfect mate for the crispy fish. Keeping with the unappetizing menu descriptions, the dish was served with Mushy Peas which are a whole lot tastier than you'd think.
B went with the classic British tummy-warmer: Bangers and Mash. While the sausages weren't amazingly memorable, B raved about the mashed potatoes. It was a perfect dish for another snowy DC evening.
So, is Againn a neighbor that would make Mr. Rogers proud? I think so. Againn isn't your neighbor that is too-hip or too-loud or too-splashy. Instead, Againn is that neighbor who is warm and inviting and serves good (if not predictable) comfort food. Welcome to the neighborhood.
Second Thoughts from B
J listened to her tummy and got the fish n' chips. B listened to every single thing written about Againn and got bangers and mash. J won.
I know what you're thinking... Upscale British food? Sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, right? But J's dish was really a perfectly executed, fine ingredient version of the familiar greasy-spoon offering. And those peas... For two kids whose experience with peas were of the frozen variety, these were amazing. Sweet, dynamic in flavor, and completely unlike our childhood memories. They could have been the spokesperson for the entire fresh and local food movement.
Like J said, my bangers weren't exactly bangin. Perhaps that is because the mustard-flavored mashed potatoes and onions were so powerful. But wait? Haven't I seen that flavor profile of pork, onion, and mustard before? Oh yes, it was our appetizer. Not exactly my finest job of ordering...
In closing, there were enough high points to bring us to Againn again. But will it be our favorite neighbor like Kabab House and Beck? For me, probably not.