If I lived in Notting Hill or Islington or Limehouse, I’d probably groan at the prospect of voyaging to darkest south London to a gastropub dinner.
But since I live only one street away from The Rosendale, I must congratulate the owner, Mark van der Goot, on his good sense in choosing such a cool, happening, upscale neighbourhood for his new venture.
The old Rosendalewas a noisy boozer with a football-matches-only TV, housed in a Victorian coaching inn. The pub never suited the premises, if you see what I mean; it was like a hooligan dressed in a crinoline. The new incarnation features a bar area,where all the tables are a little too big, and a restaurant overlooking the garden. The evening we went was rainy and dismal outside – and pretty dismal inside too: dark brown tables, chandeliers with 20-watt lamps, an air of municipal melancholy. Give us some candles, I thought, before we all start weeping.
Things improved with the arrival of the (home-made) sausage-bread and butter (ditto, with a touch of caramel) and the wine list.Van der Goot is a former Mayfair sommelier and his list is awesomely global and inclusive. There are no fewer than 20 wines by the glass. If you can’t choose between two vintages, he will zoom away and return with glasses of both to try.
My three lady companions were in raptures over the starters. Louise and Koo shared the £25 lobster, which had been chargrilled but not to excess, and was succulent and deliciously al dente.Carolyn’s home-made ricotta and tomato ravioli was light and delicate, beefed up with aubergine purée and Parmesan. I had the“citrus-rubbed”swordfish with grilled squid and home-pickled ginger. It was a wild success, the lemon giving the swordfish flavour rather than an acid kick,while the white tube of squid went so well with the ginger, I felt like shaking the chef’s hand for introducing them to each other.
The main courses were similarly eclectic. The braised oxtail with sweetbreads was bulging with flavour but fibrous and chewy in texture. The sweetbreads were delicious, though, and inspired the usual altercations between those who think they’re lamb’s testicles and those who know they’re a lamb’s throat glands and pancreas. A potentially boring chestnut risotto was given star treatment with some nicely poached mushrooms.
Since I’d unaccountably never tried it before, I went for the dukka-spiced Kenzie Farm ostrich fillet with beef bobotie and sweet potato purée – an exotic sighting down Dulwich way, like discovering a llama in Croydon town hall. Chef Matthew Foxton is, you see, South African and this reminds him of home. Ostrich fillet turns out to be a lot like duck breast, dark and floppily gamey, only more coarse-textured. And the bobotie? It’s South African comfort food, minced beef baked with raisins and an egg-and-milk sauce, a bit like eating haggis with fruity bits.
From the small pudding menu, I plunged into another Voortrekker special, the rooibos and beetroot cake, and regretted it: it was bland and dry and reminded you that a slice of cake is for teatime, not the end of dinner. A passionfruit parfait with strawberry sauce was much yummier, but the girls complained about the trio of chocolate ganache with clotted ice-cream.“They’ve used gelatin to make it set,”they tutted,“rather than making a proper chocolate mousse.”
I hope the chef is suitably chastened. The Rosendale is a welcome addition to south London, full of interesting and unusual dishes, cooked with care and served with friendly attention. Now if only some décor consultant could have a word in its owner’s ear.
The Rosendale 65 Rosendale Road, WestDulwich, London SE21 (020-8670 0812)
Around £100 for two, with wineReuse content