By Kate Williams.
You've been to Proud Camden, right? It's one of those places we've all ended up at one time or another. It has a gravitational pull common among NW1's other iconic venues, and has built up quite a reputation.
A reputation for attracting big name bands and DJs like Mark Ronson and Florence and the Machine, a reputation for gorgeous clientele, whose glossy mag attractiveness is only bettered by their bar staff. What I think of when I think of Proud, though, is a grown up alternative to a Camden night out. A slice of cool without the side of chaos.
This more polished night out might not be to everyone's tastes, but Camden has enough grungy pubs for them to hang out in and Proud successfully pulls off a more ordered hipness with panache.
Already known for cabaret, art, as well as nightclub shennanigans, Proud has something new up its trendy t-shirted sleeve. I was there earlier this month for the launch of their latest venture, a restaurant, Proud Kitchen.
Now, Camden isn't short of places to eat and bang smack in the middle of a market made up of tempting smells, it might seem like an unnecessary string to their bow. However, the thinking behind the new restaurant addition is simple, and typically Proud: a decent, civilised place to get a pre-gig/night out dinner.
The dining room, all candlelight and fresh flowers, is charming but then you'd have to try pretty hard to make this tastefully renovated 200-year-old Grade II Listed Horse Hospital anything but.
Long dining benches made for a lively atmosphere, and it was easy to imagine away the amiable troughing journos I shared the evening with and replace them with buoyant birthday party guests, filling up before a night of boozy dancing.
Not that the menu is just stomach lining fodder. The roast sea bream fillet and shredded fennel was fresh and tasty but outshone by the grilled Bavette steak with caramelised onion mash, which got rave reviews all round. As did the beetroot and milk chocolate fondant pudding served with clotted cream.
For £19.50 a head, you can choose from a small yet wordy three course set menu, which makes for pretty good value by anyone's reckoning. A splash of imagination provided by Michelin-trained chef Finlay Logan is what makes Proud Kitchen stand out from it's chain restaurant and pub grub heavy neighbours.
That said, Proud Kitchen isn't trying to top the to-scoff-at list of any of this city's many foodies, but if you're there for a night out - and trust me, you will be at some point - it's more than worth booking a table. A decent restaurant in a nightclub is just the latest in this venue's interesting ideas. Proud? They should be. In fact, I'd go as far as to say smug.
Read more about new bars, restaurants, pubs, and club in London, check out the Fluid London Top 10 of new venues.