96 Wandsworth High St, London, SW18 4LB
Tel: 020 8874 1428
Nearest Tube: Wandsworth Town BR station
Average price per person: £13 (for two courses and an alcoholic drink)
I have to admit I was very skeptical upon trying this gastro pub. For weeks on end I’ve been told that I had to try the food at this pub – upper end food for ridiculously low prices. Indeed. We’ll see.
The pub is very inconveniently located in a remote part of Wandsworth. Not at all near any other restaurants. Upon entering, it looked like any other locals’ pub. Old furniture. Slightly smelly carpet. Telly on in the corner, a few middle aged people enjoying a chatter and a pint. Not at all a glamorous setting for a gastro pub.
A separate section of the pub is kept aside for food. A few wooden tables and chairs – very basic. To the back of the room you can see two chefs chatting away in the open kitchen – not at all busy. There was no one else eating on this Tuesday night. Fair enough. We had to get our own menus and order our own food and drink from the friendly staff behind the bar. A blackboard proclaimed the specials of the day.
The waitress came unexpectantly and gave us a complimentary bread board with four slices of generously portioned bread. Two were plain and the other two had streaks of what tasted like jam. Both were gorgreous dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For drinks two of us had a Bloody Mary. Establishements can do either one of two things here – put too much tobasco in the beverage so that you’re on the toilet the next day with your anus on fire going “that Bloody Mary!” or put too little tobasco leaving you holding the drink in disgust going “I have to drink this Bloody Mary?” This pub got it exactly right. I was intrigued by the floating yellow bits in the drink. It tasted like meat – but in a good way. I asked the waitress. “Fresh horseradish” she replied. Beautiful – it’s the simple touches that make the difference,
Four of us were dining and decided to share two soups. There was only one soup – curried veges and mint yoghurt (£4.00). It sounded off the planet and maybe a little hit and miss. My other three companions had eaten here before and swore by the soup. Not the same, as the menu seems to change daily. The soups arrived and were attractively dribbled with olive oil. It was deep green and the aromas were heavenly. The taste was heavy, spicy and creamy – the curry taste not at all overpowering but perfectly married with the mint yoghurt. A truly enjoyable experience.
I had the Eggs Benedict Royal (£7.00) which came perfectly presented and cooked accompanied with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. When poked, golden streams of runny egg yolk casacaded down and lovingly bathed my smoked salmon. I sighed in unison to the rhythmic churn as my gastric juices eagerly devoured the combination.
The Man reckons he can spot a good risotto blind-folded and with his tongue excoriated with acid. He choose the not too shabby pan-fried sea bream, coriander risotto, sweet chilli and lime dressing (£7.00). When it arrived I was immediately envious. Food you can taste with your eyes. He reported that the fish was perfectly cooked although the risotto was a tad undercooked. No matter…it was still delicious and creamy.
The prince consort choose the traditional burger, bacon, cheese and chunky chips (£7.00). Sounds boring and run-of-the-mill but here is where the chef rose to the occasion. The beef patty oozed flavour and charisma. Laugh you may if you’ve never heard of a burger having charisma – but charisma it had. The chunky chips I can safely proclaim to be only second best to The Ship. No mean feat.
The Other Hag had the other traditional dish. It translated into Cumberland sausages, creamy mash with home fried onions. In reality and to most people, it can be easily understood as “bangers and mash”. Surely the kitchen couldn’t possibly construct another visual and culinary symphony to be devoured? They did and with style. The mound of potato mash was topped with thorny rings of fried onion. These weren’t ordinary onion rings either. I had to stop myself snatching these precious rings from the Other Hag’s plate. Extra crunch and oh so tasty.
We probably should have ordered desserts in the name of research. I’m pretty sure that they would have been non-too shabby. But our bellies were stretched and we were gasping for air. This kitchen excels at displaying ordinary fare and reeling your senses into a 360. It spits out fresh produce with much thought given to contrasting textures and flavours. The head chef should be applauded. I’m only surprised at the lack of customers, although it was a Tuesday night. I can only imagine that the location would hinder the pub’s popularity. We stumbled out into the cold air and realised we didn’t have any immediate transportation home. Don’t try to flag a taxi down. We tried for 15 minutes then gave up. The bus eventually comes after a patient wait. If I had only one breath left to give advice – try the soup and bring the car.
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