'There is wood panelling, Chesterfields to flop in & a fire to warm your cockles in front of'

The Britannia, Kensington

Kitchen open Mon—Sat midday—10pm, Sun midday—9pm

The style:

Just like your average Kensington pensioner, this pub has grown old in a very dignified way. Sending punters into the night a little squiffy for 200 years now, a recent makeover probably left a few of the regulars a little nervous of what was to come; I’m happy to report that the old girl is still as lovely as ever though. There is still wood panelling, Chesterfields to flop in and a fire to warm your cockles in front of.

The main noticeable difference is the spiral staircase leading up to private dining rooms. Although it’s stolen some of the drinking space, it’s not too much of an imposition. Out back is a fairly formal conservatory and smokers will enjoy their little enclave down the side of the building.

The crowd:

Apart from the well-heeled catchment area, the Britannia attracts those who need a rest after shopping on Kensington High Street has left them bushed. Because it’s off the main drag, plenty of workers round these parts come for a bit of respite too. With the old Barkers building above Whole Foods now home to five newspapers, you might also find a few hacks at the bar, grizzling about the fact that Kim Kardashian is now the most popular kind of news.

The food:

In this environment, dude food would seem very gauche, so no fried chicken here. Instead there are pub classics—you know what they are.

In an attempt to have a taste of a few things we ordered ‘The Great Exhibition’ (£16)—picky portions of most of their starters. Though generous, it offered mixed amounts of satisfaction. The haggis and black pudding scotch egg was so wonderful in a crunchy, gooey way that my wife got over her aversion to pig’s blood, and pork belly bites had all the snap and piggy tenderness you want with that dish. Letting the side down were the ham and potted shrimps, which were both a bit ‘meh’.

Kedgeree (£13.50), though generous with its haddock, was more stodgy than silky and needed more curry, though the accompanying battered roasted cauliflower was pure delight. Thyme and rosemary’s love-in with the bream (£17) was a beautiful thing but the samphire suffered from a heavy hand with the salt. So there were a few ups and downs.

The drinks:

The wine list comes in its own little booklet and there is some interesting stuff to try. We had a lovely floral Italian Balbi Soprani, which was a new one to me. On the pumps are Young’s ales (it’s their pub) and you’ll also find a couple of the new crafties, Camden Hells and Dogfish Head DNA. All in all, the food needs a bit of a tweak but a lot can be forgiven in one of west London’s best-loved pubs.

The Britannia, 1 Allen Street, Kensington W8 6UX; 020 7937 6905; www.britanniakensington.co.uk

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Bars & Pubs |