David Sexton. 28.11.07
The main bar is spaciously arranged, with a rich dark-red ceiling, grey-green
paintwork, chandeliers, wooden floors, tables and chairs, candles, lilies, gilt
mirrors ...The service is exceptionally friendly and charming.
Upstairs, there's a lovely small dining room, seating just 25, with nice linen,
candlelight, a working fireplace, and, as an ironic nod to the past, on the walls,
framed letters written by the duke but newly computer-printed. Being in a
place like this, very carefully designed but on a domestic scale, is so much
more pleasing and soothing than the marble halls of any grand hotel or
The food up and down is much the same, with a few fancier items only
available in the dining room. The cooking, by Fred Smith, who has worked
previously at Ransomes Dock and Galvin Bistro De Luxe, is very French and
remarkably good for the modest prices: well-sourced, very professionally
prepared. In some ways, it's like a dreamy French bistro, of the kind now almost
impossible to find there any more.
A crab bisque at £6 was just delicious, full of shellfish flavour without being
overpowering. Much is made of the pig here. On a previous visit, slow-cooked
pig cheeks were succulent and rich; trotters appear on toast with fried quail's
eggs and tomato sauce. Pork rillette was a not-so-fatty paté, served with
mustard and gherkins and great crusty bread, for £6.50. What more do you
need, if you're at all hungry?
A 28-day aged Longhorn beef sirloin steak might be served with mustard and
tarragon butter and chips, for £17.50 downstairs, or with bone marrow, crepes
and Alsace bacon, pommes mousseline and green beans, for £19.75, a top
whack here, upstairs. But great wild boar sausages with mash are £9.50, and
wine is fairly priced, with an excellent Primitivo at £15.75 a bottle.
The first time I visited it the Duke of Wellington became a favourite. The only reason it
doesn't seem to have been much noticed yet must be that most people who
have discovered it hope to keep it to themselves..