Getting desperate. I vaguely remembered an OK basement cocktail bar I had been to years ago. Did it still exist? Could I find it?. Yes Detroit was still there. So we wandered down into the cosy bar with its alcove tables, and ordered cocktails and bar snacks.
It all worked out in the end, seriously good chips and rather nice cocktails. I would highly recommend the Strawberry and Cream cocktail. I had a few of them, but at £6.85 each they did not break the bank. Nice atmosphere, with friendly staff and unobtrusive music – could actually have a conversation! Next time I won’t leave it quite so long before I return to Detroit.
So why a historic gastropub versus a traditional Italian Trattoria. The reason is Open House London or Open City as it is now called, an event that allows for free access to some very interesting places. We had a tour of Sands Film Studios in Rotherhithe, an amazing place that among other things provided costumes for films ranging from Little Dorrit to Pride and Prejudice. The studios are directly opposite The Mayflower Inn, so that popular scenic pub seemed an ideal location for dinner.
The Mayflower is a great pub with a floating deck area right on the river. Great for drinks that is, it used to do good food too – maybe it still does! However when we saw the price on the chalk board for Fish and Chips, we just could not justify it – £21.00 (see picture). So we headed up river to Shad Thames, and went to La Lanterna, which is a “real” Italian Trattoria, with genuinely friendly and hospitable Italian staff. In style this place is almost the antithesis of the modern Italian restaurants typified by Zucca and the River Cafe.
We chose a bottle of my favorite Italian white wine (Gavi de Gavi), and I ordered Antipasto misto all’italiana (mixed appetisers) at £7.20 ( this dish was for one, but could have fed four). I followed this with fish from their specials board – Halibut with Scallops and Langoustine (not cheap at £21 either, but a lot more than just fish and chips). This dish was nicely cooked and served with a tasty citrus sauce and a side order of vegetables, it was also a huge portion. Way too big for me, so the waiter kindly offered to box the piece of halibut I left for take away.
There was absolutely no room for dessert so I just had coffee. This was followed by a complementary liqueur (we were offered a choice of Amaretto, Sambuca, Baileys or Limoncello) – a very nice way to end the evening.
La Lanterna also has an attractive inner courtyard for eating al fresco (in the summer).
The Cross Keys is a historic pub in the heart of Chelsea. It has a couple of lovely rooms that can be hired out and a separate restaurant at the back with a retractable roof to let in the sunshine. We dropped in for Sunday lunch, not realising that the pub had changed ownership earlier this year.
The service itself was a bit patchy, with the bread and one dip arriving first, then a second dip coming just as the main courses arrived. I am pretty sure the rather loud argument we heard from the serving area did not help the ambience!
The bread with fresh pesto dip and olive oil was a good start, but the menu selection was not very exciting, none of the starters grabbed our attention, nor did the desserts. So we ended up just having main courses, specifically the Lamb Cutlets and the Wagyu beef burger with Truffle fries which at £16.00 has to be one of the most expensive burgers I have ever had. The Truffle fries were nice, but the burger was very ordinary, and served with way too much Kos lettuce. At that price I was expecting something a bit more sophisticated, like the “frenchie” burger served at Bar Boulud for example.
So maybe on my next visit I will just stick to drinks and bar snacks and avoid disappointment.
The Sportsman in Whitstable is a destination restaurant, well a Michelin starred gastro pub with quite a reputation. Do not even think about going there to eat without an advance reservation.
They pride themselves on their fresh ingredients. Everything is either from the garden out back or from nearby, its all about provenance here. On the whole the pride is justified as the ingredients especially the fish and vegetables are really fresh and the cooking shows them off.
We treated ourselves to some Pol Roger Champagne and started on the tasting menu (something you need to pre book or alternatively you can order from the dishes on the blackboard by the bar). We started with some pork scratchings, and to quote “Steve” the chef, the Sportsman is a pub after all. They were nothing like typical pub pork scratchings, they were delicious, as was the mustard, herring and soda bread they were served with.
We had a very nice salad (Salmagundy, which apparently means a salad made out of available ingredients), but the standout courses were the dover sole with seaweed butter and the turbot with smoked roe sauce. Our conclusion was that the meal started well and that the fish dishes were excellent, but that the quality dipped with the 2nd lamb dish (some mash would have been nice) and the desserts (can chefs get over popping candy please).
We enjoyed the meal but I must say I wasn’t as wowed by it as some other reviewers.
Oh and we finished off the day with a nice jug of Pimms at Miles Cafe Culture in Ramsgate in case you were wondering.
The Dog & Fox is a well known and long standing Youngs Pub in the heart of Wimbledon Village, with a separate restaurant. Their web site highlights the chefs Pacific Rim influences (interesting), but shows a very British Pub style food menu (not so interesting).
The entrance via the Pub, past the bouncer, is off-putting, but fortunately there is also a side entrance that takes you directly to the restaurant. The room is warm and nicely decorated.
On our visit, I found there were more negatives than positives here:-
1. All the prices on the menu had been tippexed out (an indication of a recent and unjustified price increase in my opinion – £19.30 for a lamb chop! – see review for Coq d’Argent, where my excellent 3 course lunch in a vastly superior venue cost less).
2. The Salsa and Relishes provided with some of the dishes were really OTT. The Salsa I had with my Thai Chicken cakes (Chicken Rissoles) for example consisted of a small bowl containing huge chunks of tomatoes with red onion and chilli – I could not eat it, it just killed my taste buds. One of my companions had the burger which was nicely cooked, but accompanied by another completely OTT Relish containing way too much garlic or horseradish. It was so strong you could not tell what it was. The Smoked Haddock was cooked ok as well, but would have been better if the accompanying egg had not been hard boiled.
Basically this was a missed opportunity. The Restaurant has a good room, it’s in an excellent location. It just needs to get it’s act together and be more like a restaurant and less like a bar food area. In it’s current incarnation I do not think it even qualifies as a gastropub!
The Magdelen has quite a pedigree. With links to some of the countries top Restaurants and Gastropubs. The reviews on its website are superb. On the whole we found it to be a friendly neighbourhood restaurant that provides good tasty food, but perhaps not meriting all the superlatives in the reviews.