In the backwoods of Fulham, a game-specialist gastropub offering many dishes of ‘restaurant’ quality; our experience, however, suggests that the more robust, and more obviously ‘gastropub-style’ dishes, may be preferable.
he gastropub fast seems to be becoming the default London restaurant format. The term, ever more encompassing, can be applied to any food service operation in a former pub, with ambitions to provide more than a Scotch egg to go with your pint.
Of course, providing Scotch eggs doesn’t actually disqualify you, and the Scotch eggs on offer at this recently re-opened gastropub – freshly cooked to order, with the yolk still runny – are a house speciality, and very good too.
In reality, though, this is arguably an informal Anglo-French restaurant of some ambition, which just happens to be located in a former boozer. Stephen Williams, who until recently worked at Notting Hill’s best restaurant, the Ledbury, is very much a proper restaurant chef. (Ledbury chef Brett Graham is an investor here.)
There is no doubt that meals here start off very well, with bread – some bought in, some home-made – of very high quality. Thereafter, the view may to some extent depend on your perspective. If you say that, judged by the ambitions of the menu, this is really a restaurant, then you might find realisation a bit up-and-down: it may be that, within the constraints of the kitchen and its staffing, they are trying to be just a little bit too ambitious.
One of our two lunches, for example, didn’t quite work at any point. A game soup with a venison sausage roll – game is a big deal here – really didn’t gel. Neither did the main course, which was described as a hot pot of haddock and mussels, nor a pudding of (undercooked) rhubarb and (excellent) ice cream. Not that anything was positively bad, just that in each case there were obvious faults.
Stick to the sort of fare that’s more obviously within the capacity of a gastropub-style kitchen, however, and it seems that you will find nothing to complain about at all. A main dish of hare and winter vegetables, for example, was as pleasing to the eye as it consistently was to the palate. Exemplary. For pudding, fluffy beignets (sorry, donuts, as this is a gastropub) confirmed the undoubted skill at work in the kitchen.
Whatever the ups and downs, the formula has generally attracted rave reviews elsewhere. It certainly seems to be drawing in an impressive – and notably diverse – crowd of locals. This is hardly the most obvious of locations, so they must be doing something right.