Tucked away on a quiet side street near Paddington, the Cleveland Arms is a neighbourhood pub worth seeking out. More than the booze though, it is the food that sets this place apart – restaurant quality but at pub prices
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 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 Elgin, a seemingly on-trend gastropub, has come a long way from its existence as a boozer for old soaks - the format in which I first visited this venue some twenty years ago. Sure, it has improved in many ways and is much loved by the yummy mummies of Maida Vale (babyccino, anyone?), but a group of us who recently visited on a Sunday lunchtime couldn't help but feel singularly disappointed.
The Antic pub chain now extends to around 40 venues spread across London and the formula deployed seems to work. The group takes buildings with a history, does them up in a ‘retro-cool’ style and then creates an atmosphere that amazingly seems to work both for hipsters and families.
What London really doesn’t need is yet another generic high-end pub posing as a restaurant. The Portman, in its former incarnation as the Mason’s Arms, used to be a traditional London boozer with lovely wood panelling and a decent atmosphere.
What does a restaurant or pub need to do in order to get a Michelin star? This was the question I mused as a group of five us set out for a recent lunch at the one-starred Sportsman near Whitstable. Since the Sportsman has had this accolade since 2008, it clearly must be doing something right.
When I first moved to London 16 years’ ago, I was lucky to have as my local boozer Crocker’s Folly, a quite remarkable pub, decorated in a high Victorian style with much marble and mirrors. The ales were great, they had a lovely weekly pub quiz and average pub grub (for the late 90’s).
If in rural Devon, discerning diners would be well-advised to consider a visit to the Nobody Inn. Set against a stunning backdrop of the Dartmoor scenery, this 16th Century inn is about more than just the views and the atmosphere.
Green and leafy Hampstead feels as if it could be part of the countryside rather than just a few tube stops north of Euston or Camden. Being a world removed from the London we all probably know better may have its charms, but what the Wells gains in terms of location, our group of five dining there recently on a weekday evening felt it lost in terms of atmosphere and service.
A work trip to Kent resulted in an impromptu visit to The Swan, located in the commuter-haven of West Malling. The other members of the party who took me there were familiar with the establishment and spoke highly of it.
The idea of dining in Chelsea induces a certain sort of trepidation in me; it conjures up images of expensively attired ladies with pearls, Euro-trash wannabes or overpaid footballers in quasi-designer suits.
‘Gastro-pub’ has become an unhealthily over-used expression, one often favoured by establishments wishing perhaps to suggest that they are more up-market (and have moved beyond microwaved dinners to – heaven forefend – having a real chef in the kitchen).
There is a lot of competition in the gastro-pub space and while The Well was good, it was certainly not without its faults. Full marks for atmosphere: lovely building, well furnished, a good noise level and friendly staff.
It works for me. Many try but few succeed with the (albeit highly over-used) gastro-pub concept. It's hard to say where specifically the Garrison excels, but it is probably most strongly in that ineffable idea of ambience, captured by the decor, noise level (well-balanced), attitude of the staff (very clearly going out of their way to be friendly) and of the other diners.
A friend booked for us to go here for a group (there were seven of us) dinner and it ticked pretty much every box. From the moment we stepped in, we were greeted by friendly and effusive staff.