Newman Street Tavern, 48 Newman Street, London

It's a tavern not a gastropub – and if you don't know the difference, you soon will

When does a "gastropub" become a "tavern"? When the owner wants to boost sales. That was my initial, cynical feeling when preparing for this visit to Newman Street Tavern, and the discovery that it lives on a site once occupied by a Ping Pong dim-sum factory only fortified that opinion.

People who say tavern instead of gastropub belong in the same class as those who use "quotidian" when they mean "everyday", "fuchsia" when they mean "pink" and "pulchritudinous" when they mean "beautiful" – frauds, the lot of them.

Well, so much for cynicism. Taverns are inns that travellers stay in; pubs are houses open to the public. Obviously there is a huge amount of crossover, but because of the overnight element, the former put a greater premium on comfort and domesticity. I should think that nobody but the very drunk or the very mischievous will ever stay overnight at Newman Street Tavern, but many more visitors will wish they could, because a more comforting place than upstairs here would be hard to find in London.

Much like GrEAT British in Mayfair, the venue I wrote about earlier this month, the emphasis here is on seasonal produce, patriotically sourced. First built in the late Victorian period, the walls sport portraits of scenes from coastal life. Images of trawler boats, fishing nets and swollen waves make the sea seem close, as does a board listing the seafood platter and extensive range of oysters and crustacea on offer.

The man behind this venture is head chef Peter Weeden, previously of The Boundary in Shoreditch, Paternoster Chop House near St Paul's, where he worked for eight years, Coq d'Argent and Quaglino's. He's also reportedly collaborating with chef Matt Reuther at the reinvigorated Princess Victoria in Shepherd's Bush.

His latest is a split-level offering: 90 covers in a raucous, packed and very yuppie downstairs bar, and a further 50 covers in a much more refined and quiet upstairs arena.

Thankfully, the menu is short and elegantly laid out on a single beige sheet. Of the starters, hot cockles and laver are fiddly and a little limited for £8, but full of aroma and well seasoned. The coddled duck egg with London chorizo is superb for £6, and comes in a sweet vinaigrette that cuts through the fatty meat beautifully. You can also have British classics such as a Devon crab salad (£11), Crown Prince squash soup (£4.50), and smoked ham terrine with parsley salad (£6).

When it comes to ordering the mains, I can't eat enough monkfish at the moment, and I suspect I'll never have it cooked as well as the monkfish-and-leek gratin here. Though too dear at £22.50, it is such a wonderful marriage of juicy, muscular white flesh and buttery sauce that I'd call it divine if only I believed in divinity.

My mate Francis, meanwhile, has a choice cut of Middle White pig with beer onions, again not cheap at £19, but beautifully done.

A bunch of sides are predictable if solid – carrot and fennel (£4) and January King cabbage (£3) best among them – but the desserts show real culinary class. A blood-orange and Campari granita (£5) is icy and delicious, while an Original Bean's chocolate mousse and ice-cream (£6.50) bounces around the walls of the mouth, releasing constant cocoa goodness along the way.

The wine list is more affordable and better value than the food, while there are cheeses from places such as Colston Bassett and Dorstone and St Gall. In other words, if you called this place, I don't know, something like GrEAT British, you'd have a menu that was true to the title.

Instead, "Newman Street Tavern" combines location – a mile north of Soho – with ethos; and if you leave unsure of the difference between a tavern and a gastropub, you can't have been paying much attention. I generally find that when I have the misfortune to head into an All Bar One, say, I want to leave within seconds. Here, in the heart of town, on a grim winter evening, I never want to leave. Now that – that's what a tavern does to you.



Newman Street Tavern, 48 Newman Street, London W1, tel: 020 3667 1445. Lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat; brunch and lunch, Sun. About £120 for two, including wine

Spectacular seafood

The Mistley Thorn Hotel

High Street, Mistley, Manningtree, Essex, tel: 01206 392 821

It's not just the lovely setting, overlooking the Stour, that makes this gastropub of note – it's long been popular for its excellent seafood selection, too

The Oystercatcher

Main Street, Portmahomack, Tain, tel: 01862 871 560

Short of being on the boat itself, this is as fresh as seafood gets, and it's beautifully cooked with passion at this harbourfront place

The Wensleydale Heifer

Main Street, West Witton, Leyburn, North Yorks, tel: 01969 622 322

This country pub may be in the middle of the landlocked Yorkshire Dales, but it's acclaimed for its wonderful fish

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before