The Peasant: More chic than rustic (November 2017)

The word peasant conjures up somewhat bucolic images of the English past; labourers and farmhands toiling away in the fields and the like. It perhaps, therefore, seems a strange name with which to adorn a pub, particularly in the trendy London district of Clerkenwell. There is nothing rustic about the venue and its prices (two courses for £20, three for £30) would probably turn even many modern-day peasants away. Nonetheless, the venue is cool and offers a good range of beers and competently executed dishes. The building housing the Peasant speaks of history, invoking the Victorian grandeur of its inception. Some of the features (mosaic floor tiling, high ceilings, splendid staircase) have been preserved, but also enhanced by the addition of retro theatre and music posters as well as neon strip lighting. The combination works, helped by the eclectic selection of songs played (mostly from the 1970s and 1980s), when a comrade and I visited on a recent weekday evening. The dining format is simple: a la carte from around ten different starters and mains, or a set menu. English and French influences feature predominantly. The dishes impressed in terms of their description and presentation although the overall taste would suggest that conception was better than execution. I commenced with a piece of curried mackerel served on an onion bhaji; certainly a novel idea, although let down by overly salty fish and a slightly too greasy bhaji. My main comprised a chicken breast served with artichokes and gnocchi. The artichokes were a stroke of genius and added harmony to the dish. The gnocchi, by contrast, was redeemed only by the gravy accompanying the dish; otherwise they would almost have been inedible. I washed my food down with a wonderful golden ale from nearby Camden, one of several available on hand pump. Service was decent enough (and beer brought to the table in a pub always evokes a slight sense of indulgence in me) although the staff were perhaps a little too hasty in wanting to clear away our dishes. Overall: great vibe and beer; jury out on the food, but would probably be willing to try again.