'This bar has a particularly magnetic quality, displaying an impressive range of twinkling bottles'

The Pocket Watch

Sun–Thu 8am–11pm, Fri–Sat 8am–midnight

The blurb

Formerly ‘The British Queen’, Brakspear’s press release says this pub refurbishment has been done with the aim of turning it into ‘a neighbourhood local’. Whatever next? Supermarkets being places where you can buy food? Bears defecating in areas where there are lots of trees? What else should a pub be if not ‘a neighbourhood local’? Anyway, let’s get on with it…

The style & the crowd

It’s certainly a handsome old devil from the outside, with its new lick of paint. Once inside the door there is a lot of wood to take in, along with a couple of TVs for sports. Your first stop is always the bar, but this one has a particularly magnetic quality, displaying an impressive range of twinkling bottles to work your way through. It got me wondering if anyone still drinks Martini; then I wondered if I wanted one. Out back there is the eating area, or just a place to escape the tellies, if you hate them.

Mostly twenty and thirty somethings were in. A sizeable group of lads were on the pints with a couple of dogs for company; pubs that allow dogs get a big tick in my book. We got a little excited on spotting someone with grey hair, but then realised he was with his son/daughter and his/her boyfriend/girlfriend. It’ll be interesting to see how this relaxed atmosphere will cope when QPR are playing at home and lager and shouting arrives.

It’s nice though, out back. You know the score by now with pub refits: filament bulbs, mismatched chairs, reclaimed wood. They’d upped the game a bit by finding some knick-knacks off eBay—old gas meters, a car grill. It’s all there to make you feel like you’re in the deep south of America. Which brings me to…

The food

A big clue was the ‘soul food’ sign over the kitchen door. London’s done the gourmet burgers and the ‘authentic’ buttermilk fried chicken so where can it go next? Po’boys, that’s where—a fried prawn sub (£9) that originated in New Orleans. It was ok. If the prawns had any flavour in the first place the kimchi-type pickle that had been added in overpowered it, but the crunch of the small fried crustaceans was good enough. It didn’t hold together particularly well for a sandwich, which was kind of annoying.

Similarly, the hot dog (£8) smelled authentically of frankfurter and tasted uniquely spiced but the bread that came with it was as big as a boat and soon succumbed to sogginess. Better to go smaller and firmer in my book. Especially when it comes to wieners.

Better were the small plates, particularly the chickpea chips (£3.5). Partly mixed with polenta, they were a revelation, feeling like a soft, non-gooey, ungreasy, healthy alternative to fries. S&P (sic) squid (£4) was non-chewy, light and crunchy and that’s all you need it to be.

We were talked into a dessert; macadamia and salted caramel is a good combination but it was too heavy as a sundae (£4.5). If we want the kind of obesity crisis that is commonly associated with our cousins across the pond, these sorts of portion sizes will certainly help bring it on.

The drink

You’d have to be somewhat of a luddite to eschew interesting ales in this glorious time of a proliferation of London microbreweries. Happily, the choice here should keep the beard-stroking craft ale snobs engaged, with Brakspear’s own range of beers on the taps and, naturally, one with a ridiculous name: pint of Ringwood Boondoggle anyone?

General manager Richard proved a charmer by letting the missus taste three wines before she settled on one she liked. The Riesling that I had was also a blinder. All in all, a nice enough refit but nothing earth-shattering.

The Pocket Watch, 434 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush, W12; 020 8749 0313; www.pocketwatch434.co.uk

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