The Chelsea Potter is what can be considered a classic English pub. Heavy on dark wood, light on, well, lighting. It sets a mood of warmth on a cool British evening, traditionally accomplished with smoke and mirrors, literally. Now that smoking is no longer allowed, the lord be praised, the mood is still one of camaraderie, and the menu hasn't changed by much.
Bangers and mash, sausage and mashed potatoes have been a staple of the pub menu, providing the working class with a filling comfort food. Today's light gravy and onion chutney show some effort, but don't elevate this dish to the level one would expect from a "gastro pub".
Roast meat, generally beef, is another venerable staple of the pub menu. On our visit, the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding was unavailable, so the waiter suggested the "pork roast". Since the Yorkshire pudding was really what I wanted, he offered to just substitute the meat and bring me the same set up with pork in place of beef. Great idea. I was surprised, but delighted to see that what he called pork roast was what I call pork belly. Instead of the dry, overcooked pork I had feared, it was moist and rich in flavor.
The pork was delicious, tender and succulent, but I couldn't help but notice that there was no Yorkshire pudding. After an apology because that too was no longer available, our waiter offered to bring me an order of sweet potato fries. Hmmm, after looking over the plate and noticing not one but two forms of potato already, I declined a 3rd potato, no matter how sweet it might be.
Our waiter couldn't take "no thank you" for an answer and as we were finishing up our meal, placed a serving of Treacle Sponge on our table. Sitting in a pool of warm vanilla custard sauce, this suet imbued cake was much like a sticky toffee pudding and we were grateful for his persistence in trying to please a customer.
The Trafalgar, a neighboring pub to Chelsea Potter on Kings Road in Chelsea, was trying for a more modern twist on pub grub. Although I liked the idea, and would go there again, it's success was modest.
Plaice instead of cod didn't make a perceptible difference in the Fish & Chips category. Although it is also a classic version of a pub menu item, the parsley in the batter did not elevate this preparation to gourmet. It can be said that the mushy peas accompanying it were the freshest tasting I had ever tried and not unpleasant in color from overcooking like the traditional version. The fish was flaky and crisp, as were the "chips".
A Chicken Caesar Salad fared much better as a means to modernize the menu. The whole anchovies were a good indication that the chef had actually tasted a classic Ceasar, since every other Ceasar we have eaten in Europe had subbed them for some form of meat, usually bacon or ham. Trafalgar definitely gets points for this execution.
They loose points for presenting a Californian with Sierra Nevada, when he asked for a local ale.
To be continued.....