Open Mon–Thu 11.30am–11pm, Fri & Sat 10am–midnight, Sun 10am–10.30pm
The style & the crowd:
This is a monster of a pub that is going to need a fair few bodies to fill it and create atmosphere, even more so when they’ve flung open the hinged doors on a warm evening to let the outside in. That’s something in their favour: the sun’s evening rays fall graciously on the building and like most of the city’s children who rarely see the sun, the punters were all out front making the most of the air. Downstairs is a big airy space with light coloured walls and those trendy filament bulbs that are everywhere these days. We were in Maida Vale, so we had the monied and some stoner bohos, as well as those workers in need of something cold and intoxicating after a day at the grindstone. The owner had his family in, so a very mixed demographic all in all. Upstairs is a very grown up dining room that you’d dress up for, with elegantly aged ceiling rose left looking tobacco stained with the rest of the ceiling and ‘chandeliers’ of odd shaped bulbs hung underneath to bring a modern twist.
On first glance, the menu is a little on the pricey side. I’m happy to report, however, that thirteen quid is about right for the stylish starter of wild sea bass, Cornish mussels, razor clams and brown shrimp that showed up on a grey plate, meaning the lovely whites and pinks of the fish were accentuated. It was a taste of the sea with a hint of aniseed. The wife’s smoked salmon (£9.50) was nice but unmemorable, and we could detect no apples in the cider jelly. So the surf was pretty good; how would the turf be? Calves tongue with braised ox tail (£19) was properly delicious, a soft, tender meat with a crunchy crumble-type topping that smacked of sage.
Next up was a lesson about steak (£22, for two to share) that, from the consumer’s point of view, was hard to swallow. They’d cooked it ‘sous vide’, a method of cooking food in airtight plastic bags over long periods, intending to make food juicier. Juicy, yes; tasty, no. It was a pallid imitation of a good steak where the flavour had somehow been cooked out of it. Just hang it, season it and then slap it in a hot pan, it doesn’t need all that fuss.
After that disappointment, dessert cheered us up. Valhrona chocolate (a respected French producer that chefs get giddy about) with cherries and tonka bean ice cream (£8) was splendid. Chocolate and cherries should get married they’re so good for each other and the tonka was vanilla turned up to eleven.
I liked the bar immediately as it had eschewed the normal Fosters/Carlsberg/Stella taps for local brews from London breweries in Camden and Hackney – cheers to that. The cool, good looking bar staff were relaxed and smiley and there is literally no way that you won’t be able to find something you like to drink. Their website says they are ‘wine enthusiasts’, there are several original cocktails and even the tea and coffee is upmarket.