Not afraid to follow where The Eagle dared: Emily Green is even prepared to brave drunk wasps in darkest Regent's Park so that she can sample the food and the kir at The Lansdowne
Saturday 29 August 1992
The similarity to The Eagle is no mystery. Of the four young proprietors, one cooked at The Eagle and the rest have just followed its formula to the letter. It was high time somebody did, because public appetite for this sort of workaday chic has meant The Eagle is heavily over-subscribed.
The Lansdowne may also get deluged. But things should settle down in time because this pub is in darkest Regent's Park, and customers will have to be local or really want to be there.
I, for one, want to be there early, late and often. The place has a lovely feeling. A woman could sit alone quite happily. More important, the chef, Amanda Pritchett, can really cook. She studied in France and, though she might complain she learnt useless habits there such as 'turning' vegetables into cute shapes, she also got a firm handle on the basics. What makes her food special is her excitement at simple goodness, which she shares with only a few young English chefs such as Caroline Brett, formerly of the 192 and All Saints restaurants in west London.
For a taste of her husbandry, I sampled a kir. That enormous jug of cassis on the bar was Ms Pritchett's work, a way of using up a huge delivery of blackcurrants. True, my glass had a dead, drunk wasp in it, but it was the best kir I have tasted. Those currants would turn up again in dessert, having emerged still fruity enough from cassis-making to go into a sorbet.
Food is listed on a short blackboard menu. I ordered several dishes, anticipating a dud. I did not find one and, with help from a friend, I ate everything. Vegetable soup, a noodle-free minestrone, was earthy and fragrant, topped with a generous pile of good salty parmesan. Italian sausages, spiced with what I expect was wine and fennel, had exceptional punch and were partnered with delicious glop - red onions properly braised, not sauteed to an indigestible slippery toughness. Creamy haddock croquettes came with chilli sauce and chunky, if somewhat flaccid, chips.
I had no more luck finding fault with the weirder dishes. In lesser hands, the tortilla with anchovy, tomato and mint salad would probably have been foul - it does, after all, sound like the product of someone who has drunk too much Sol. But rather than a Mexican maize shell, the tortilla was a deep Spanish omelette, topped with spuds.
The salad was simply a highly spiced twist on the bistro classic of anchovy and tomato salad, doused with a good vinaigrette. The mint stood up brilliantly to capers in the dressing. Another salad, of absolutely fresh lettuces that had been lightly dressed, was exquisite.
Chatting at the bar, Ms Pritchett said she was given an ice-cream maker as an opening present. Her honey ice-cream only wants some more fresh vanilla and brandy to be worth a detour in itself.
There is a lot of chatting at the bar. My companion, who needed some electrical work done in her kitchen, met an out-of-work art student willing to do the job. Another woman was 31p short for a drink and everyone offered to make up the difference. This slightly distracted congeniality served me well, too. The group who mysteriously turned up with their own bottle of wine and had to leave it at the bar might have been disconcerted, on their return home, to find it had been opened: the bartender had accidentally poured me a drink from it.
The Lansdowne's wine list is short and appealing. A bottle of 1989, Domaine le Thou, a good red made from the syrah grape, was a snip at pounds 8.30. Damage for two starters, three main courses, one dessert, a bottle of wine, one coffee, mineral water and a tip: pounds 35.
The Lansdowne, 90 Gloucester Avenue, NW1 (071-483 0409). Approx pounds 7- pounds 20. Children welcome. Vegetarian meals. Meals served Tue-Sat lunch and dinner and Sun lunch. Bar open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 12noon-3pm, 7-10.30pm. Cheques and cash only.
The proprietor of Le Marche Noir in Edinburgh asks me to point out, apropos of last week's review of Les Partisans, that the chef of Les Partisans was not formerly the chef of Le Marche Noir, but its second chef.
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