Restaurants: Bang to rights

Tracey MacLeod tucks into beer, sausage 'n' mash at RK Stanleys

People who work in the media are meant to spend all their time on mobile phones shouting "Let's do lunch!" at each other. So it is rather mysterious that there's hardly anywhere decent to have lunch near either of the BBC's two main London premises. Shepherd's Bush, home of Television Centre, is a notorious gastronomic desert, haunted by wild-eyed packs of ravenous researchers foraging for meat pasties and chicken and chips. And Broadcasting House, headquarters of network radio, is only marginally better served, despite its West End location, just north of Oxford Circus. Sandwich bars and dingy trattorias abound, but for a good middle-range meal you have to head south to Soho.

Recently, though, like London buses arriving three at a time, a cluster of fashionable restaurants has sprung up in the slightly run-down area around Broadcasting House, led by the chic new Villandry at the top of Great Portland Street. Later this month, further down the same street, Oliver Peyton opens Mash, a sister restaurant to his Mash and Air in Manchester. And since November, there has been R K Stanleys, tucked away down a sidestreet in spacious premises converted from a former nightclub.

R K Stanleys is the brainchild of Fred Taylor, whose Covent Garden restaurant Alfred was one of the first of the designer working-men's caffs, serving traditional British dishes in stylish surroundings. This time, Taylor has gone for a more focused concept, and the concept is sausages. Sausages and beer, to be precise - R K Stanleys also offers an adventurous range of specialist draught and bottled British beers, courtesy of its backer, an independent brewery that is planning, if the formula proves successful, to replicate it around the country.

I arrived for a weekday lunch without a booking, but with suitably sausage- friendly back-up in the form of my friend Peter Curran, a disc jockey at nearby GLR (the BBC radio station for London). An anonymous entrance opens into a clean-lined room which feels remarkably airy, despite the lack of natural light. The look is utilitarian-Festival-of-Britain meets Fifties diner, with red banquette seating, and a proper American sit-down bar, where lone lunchers can perch to grab a solitary sausage. Walls are a sludgy battleship grey, and a brutal cement fresco on the wall seems to be made up of swastikas, though they prove on closer inspection to be the intertwined initials of the fictitious proprietor R K Stanley.

Comfortable-looking booths line the walls, some of them big enough to accommodate parties of up to 10. But all of them were already occupied, so we settled for a small table near the door, which gave me a good view of some fashiony types in fleeces and designer trainers who had obviously strayed in from the nearby rag-trade district. They included one flamboyantly beautiful young male model, who, as Peter rather naughtily commented, looked like he would only put a sausage in his mouth if his career absolutely depended on it.

The menu is shortish, and dominated by The Magnificent Seven, seven sausage dishes of varying complexity and ambition (all sausages are made on the premises, and are reasonably priced at around pounds 7 a dish). At one end, there is the Simple Stanley, a pork sausage served with onion gravy, kale and mash. At the other, there are some distinctly weird combinations. Thai sausage with noodles and duck sausage with candied orange and spinach both sound like the doomed experiments of a supermarket chain's development department, and neither of us was remotely tempted to try them.

The non-sausage options are limited. Three slightly pricier daily specials feature such standards of the Modern Brit repertoire as seared cod with lentils and calves' liver with bacon, and starters include pumpkin soup, steamed mussels and wood pigeon salad. Given the heftiness of our imminent main courses, it would probably have been wise to skip the starters. But I was glad I didn't - my smoked haddock was among the best I've ever eaten. Lightly-poached hunks of firm fish - naturally coloured, rather than dyed to a Des O'Connor yellow - shimmered on a huge mound of mustard greens topped with a perfect poached egg, like a baby's skull as Peter said. His Dublin rock oysters, on the other hand, were disappointingly small and flavourless, and he was unimpressed by our waiter's justification that, at pounds 6 for half a dozen, they were the best native specimens the chef could find at an affordable price.

We were both knocked out, though, by our choice of beers (here our waiter really came through for us, confidently steering us towards the brews that would best suit the dishes we'd ordered). My Bombardier Premium Bitter was incredibly smooth, the beer equivalent of malt whisky, and Peter's Marstons Oyster Stout was light and toasted, with a shorter finish than the more familiar Irish stouts.

But what of the sausages, the fleshy foundation on which the nascent R K Stanleys empire is founded? Well, they were big - about 10 inches was Peter's estimate, though given the male propensity to exaggerate, I revised it downwards to nearer eight. And they were intensely meaty. Unlike shop-bought sausages, which explode moistly in the mouth, these were dense and slightly dry, like compacted mince as Peter accurately put it. My Bratwurst, a pork sausage flavoured with sage and nutmeg, came with a fragrant slab of tender bacon, sauerkraut, and some frankly unnecessary caramelised pears. Peter's bolder choice of game sausage flavoured with juniper, thyme and red wine was darker and more intense, with an autumnal accompaniment of red cabbage and sweet glazed parsnips. Both came with flavoured mash, his with mustard, and mine with champ - potato mashed with shallots and butter. It's a speciality of Peter's home town of Belfast, where, he claims, people eat it with everything - even, on occasion, with potato. Sampling my portion, he found it adequate, but not quite oniony or creamy enough to be truly authentic.

Overall, though, we agreed that R K Stanleys is trying very hard. The cooking is executed with the kind of flair and attention to detail that you don't expect in this price range (our bill was pounds 25 a head), and service was admirably prompt and efficient. It would be perfect for a winter supper or weekend family lunch (children can currently lunch for free on Saturdays), and judging by the number of besuited men around us, it is already starting to find a healthy lunchtime market for its sturdy masculine fare. The four young businessmen who were sitting next to us - they could have been estate agents, or BBC resource managers - were certainly enjoying their grub. Well, three of them were, anyway, big hearty chaps who reacted with boisterous enthusiasm when their huge sausages were laid before them. But the fourth, much smaller and quieter than the others, was obviously mortified to be presented with his choice, a small, bright-green sausage (it must have been the Glamorgan, a vegetarian option made with leeks and cheese). Shrinking in his seat, he barely said a word for the rest of the meal, and I was reminded of the legendary BBC executive whose favourite way of bringing meetings to a close was to say "It's dicks-on-the-table time, lads," even if a woman was present.

By the time we'd polished off a shared pudding - a slightly drab lavender- scented rice pudding with creme fraiche sorbet and a minty syrup - Peter and I were rendered totally impotent by beer'n'banger bloatage. He staggered off to breathe stout over a few unfortunate celebrities - the identity of his interviewees had slipped his mind by the end of our meal - and I cycled home so slowly that at one point I seemed to be going backwards. Before we parted, I asked Peter if he would ever come back to "do lunch" at R K Stanleys. "I would," he said, carefully, "if I was in the mood for a very specific dish that involved a large sausage"

RK Stanleys, 6 Little Portland Street, London W1 (0171-462 0099). Lunch noon-3.30pm, dinner 6pm-11.30pm, Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays. Disabled access. All cards except Diners Club.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

    Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

    Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape