Having recently acquired a Taste London card I was itching for an opportunity to use it. This opportunity presented itself when my parents unexpectedly had to pass through London last week, courtesy of Eyjafjallajökull. Browsing through the list of participating restaurants I came across Public House which seemed to fit the bill: casual atmosphere, interesting menu and, although it was nearby, I’d never heard of it.
It sounds pretty wanky, said my wife.
Yeah, the name doesn’t do it any favours and nor does the website. In fact, despite the name and the URL, it isn’t a pub at all, it is a bar with a dining room. And it really is pretty wanky. From the outside, it is very unassuming, tucked away just off Upper Street in a narrow, awkwardly-shaped building which you could easily miss; inside, they have over-compensated with a nauseating riot of Boho shabby chic. This decor is all available for sale – at hilarious prices – in the back of the wine list. Urgh.
Since my wife was (as usual) late, we had plenty of time to admire this and the more you look about the place, the less chic it looks and the more shabby. For example, a very impressive iron chandelier contained cheap, nasty electric lights in the shape of candles. There is a confusion to Public House; it is simultaneously trying too hard and not sure what it is trying to do. Something similar was true of the overly attentive service which was an uneasy mix of the stuffily formal and the excessively matey.
The menu is modern British and immediately won points for offering colcannon as a side. I won’t actually say too much about the food itself though, as I was so badly congested that about half my tastebuds were out of commission. I will note, however, that my main of pork wrapped in speck was overcooked, so the kitchen could stand to take a bit more care. Equally, apple stuffed with sausagemeat was a welcome attempt to add a third type of pig to my plate but was a whole apple required? Like the decor, the ideas where there but the execution was slapdash, the exception being a beautifully presented dish of lemon sole with lemon and thyme risotto.
Whilst the rest of the table stuck to Portuguese red, I rebelled and went for beer. Like I said, it isn’t a pub at all, there are no pumps. They do have a rather exciting list of bottled beer though. Since it was a beautiful, sunny day I started with a bottle of Vedett Extra White. It soon became clear that whilst it was refreshing I would need something rather more full-bodied to penetrate my blocked nose. The answer was the seasonal brew from Sierra Nevada which in this instance was their superb Anniversary Ale. (By the way, if you are partial to a drop yourself, I would recommend the excellent Billy’s Booze Blog.)
So Public house is a slightly weird place but not without its charm – my dad immediately warmed to the place when they played Bob Dylan just as he entered – and if the food wasn’t blinding, it certainly had its moments. Thanks to the Taste London card, it was also half price which meant that it was a remarkable £11 a head for staters, mains and a shared date and frangipane tart (also overdone) with another £55 for booze and service.