Ask any of my friends, I have not stopped talking about a) The Ginger Pig opening in W12 and b) the reopening of the Devonshire Arms in Chiswick. Now I promise bullet point b will cease. I’ve been and I dragged three friends along to try the menu with me, and pay, result!
The menu is varied and seasonal and there really is a good mix for every palate.
The interior hasn’t changed much since Nick Gibson took the reigns but to be honest, there’s not much to work with and the space isn’t easy to create an intimate dining experience.
At a quick glance, the bar menu was fun, a bowl of radishes with a dip of sorts made me smile, but it was the sausage roll that made my eyes pop and my stomach roll, even if we were going to sit down to dinner in thirty minutes.
We started with drinks outside on what was a lovely sunny evening. There are three tables at the front of the pub for the taking. There is also a rather nice garden space at the rear but the sun had disappeared when we arrived. I trilled on the discovery that they stock Sipsmith’s gin (distilled locally in Hammersmith), but Nick you need to stock Fever Tree mixers, I promise you, the difference is quite apparent. Still, you can’t have everything but “A good drop” of Woodfords was the reaction from the boys and a well-mixed fruity Pimms kept my female chum more than happy. Drinks sunk and it was time for the sausage roll. Our Northern pastry expert gave the flaky 10 out of 10 “Pastry as good as Greggs” was praise indeed from a man who knows his flaky from his short and a light and non-greasy casing kept the contents of the haggis and pork sausage roll (£4.50) nicely bound. Well-seasoned meat complemented each other, the spicy oatiness of the haggis and the sausage-meatiness of the pork. This was served with a tomato-salsa-r-y sauce which was sweet, tomato-ey and worked well with the heartiness of the meat. No greasy fingers either. Seriously, am I going a little ga-ga over a sausage roll? The simple answer is yes, it matters, it was very very good.
Now, we were getting a cut-price meal – the soft opening meant fifty percent discount on the food. This was the pub’s first week of opening so as you’d expect there were going to be teething problems. On the whole it was almost there, but there are a few points I think are worth making. Even with a half priced food bill four of us managed to spend £112.50, without the added tip.
So, here’s a breakdown of the meal from start to finish.
A lovely platter of fresh, nutty bread arrived with unsalted butter and was immediately demolished.
Two starters were ordered and both arrived promptly. The half pint of prawns with a rose marie sauce (£6.50) was a real treat and the spiky fronds overflowed the mug. Silly things were forgotten like plates for shell remnants and finger bowls. The sauce was delicious, a thin yet flavour-packed rosy pink dipping partner.
The second starter chosen was smoked eel, smoked bacon and quails egg (£6.50). Pretty on the plate but the over-riding taste of the smoked bacon put paid to the individual tastes of both the delicate eel and boiled egg, so that was a little disappointing.
For the mains, I took a punt and ordered the bavette without chips and a salad (£14.50). In my opinion, as a diner and a cook, it’s one of those much maligned “forgotten cuts” but one that needs careful cooking, close guarding, a lot of seasoning and a certain level of skill for medium-rare. The punt was lost. It was tough and leather-like, so I thanked God for the serrated knife. The peppercorn sauce was indeed a well suited accompaniment if not to help down the bavette – a sublime, creaminess with a subtle pepper after-taste. The confit of garlic was sweet and oozed with little force from the plump pillows it popped from. The salad leaves were unwashed and gritty and, on reflection, I really shouldn’t have gone off-menu and stuck with the scripted chips.
The braised breast of lamb with summer vegetables (£15.00), was the winner of the meal. One of those dishes you wish you had ordered, and there’s always one on a table. An intensely flavoured lamb was cooked to perfection, the flavour stood alone from it’s well seasoned gravy, which in turn was topped with some well prepped and cooked vegetables – carrots, runner beans and broad beans. A glass of the Rioja Albergarda (£5.00) worked well with the richness of the lamb.
The whole roast poussin with new potatoes and runner beans (£13.00) was good. An added bonus was a little cabbage, which in itself would have been a welcome addition, there’s always more bones than meat on a poussin, but alas the vegetables must have been dipped in hot water for a nano-second, blanched and then failed to get their second, longer dip. However, the poussin was stuffed with fresh herbs (thyme, bay and fat cloves of garlic) as many as the groaning cavity could cope with, and the chicken oozed moistness and flavour. Table manners were out of the window and bones were being sucked left, right and centre, all the more scrumptious was the flavour the closer to the bone. The new potatoes were cooked well and well seasoned with rock salt.
The slow roast pork belly, savoy cabbage and cherry tomatoes (£12.50) was fatty, as expected, but the recipient left a quarter of the dish in fat. Well seasoned and perfectly edible.
We ordered a side dish of Heritage Sharp’s new potatoes (£3.00) and two pathetic orbs were delivered in a bowl. Queried, this was rectified immediately and were soon replaced with a heap.
The puddings were to-die-for.
The Hendricks gin and tonic jelly with a blueberry compote (£6.00) was pretty fabulous to look at and it tasted pretty good too. I even asked for a side of custard – weird but I fancied it – and a wee jug of that arrived with no issue. Smooth-vanilla-creaminess at it’s best.
Now, the brownie was probably one of the best I’ve ever eaten (£6.00). The top needed a good crack to reveal a dense, chocolatey, warm gooey, oozing middle, studded with pecans and I want the recipe. The jug of chocolate sauce was unnecessary but eaten, of course, and I was in custard-y, cocoa heaven, fighting the actual person who ordered it as their own dish. They ate the vanilla ice cream and managed to duel me for a couple of spoonfuls of brownie.
The cheese plate (£8.00) was generous, and made up of Montgomery cheddar, blue Lee blue (although I cannot find this at all on the internet and have tried various spellings) and Finn organic cow’s milk cheese. Never enough biscuits are there, but nowhere near enough for the huge hunks which were brought to the table. A small dish of the homemade chutney went quickly and the staff brought more biscuits when requested. A red wine request was left to the manager and he paired well with a glass of Rhone Feraud (£5.25).
I asked about sourcing and suppliers but was told “we have so many and the head chef is off”. Shame.
Both men and women’s loos were clean and the hand wash divine, Green and Spring have an order coming their way, but it’s those little things, the attention to detail that really do make a difference.
Would we return? A resounding yes. We’re giving the odd hiccups the benefit of the doubt. So my wishlist Nick is short and is as follows: Stichelton on the cheeseboard and Fever Tree mixers in the bar, and finally, the staff to have a little more knowledge about the food being served but I know they’re all new.
Apologies for the photo quality. Not up to their usual spec but I took them with my phone.