Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

The Windsor Castle

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A couple of years ago I made the mistake of ordering lamb with herring and nasturtium relish at Konstam. Earlier this year, I went into the Windsor Castle and was surprised to see lamb with sprat sauce on the menu. Turns out it is the same bloke in the kitchen, Oliver Rowe. He’s obviously proud of his creation but I’ve learnt my lesson.

The gist of the menu of the menu is well-cooked locally-sourced protein with intriguing vegetable accompaniment and not too much fuss. Between us we ordered pretty much everything on the menu except the lamb and there wasn’t a single duff note. Starters are £7 which is good value (my cuttlefish was particularly mountainous), mains are £13 – £15.50 which is slightly less so. My over-ridding impression, however, was not of the food but of the inordinate amount of time it took to produce it. I couldn’t quite see into the kitchen (it is open but thankfully not as intrusive as at Konstam) but it seemed like they needed another warm body in there. It is a big pub but they were streched by only a couple of covers.

It is also a new pub. The Windsor Castle is on Lower Clapton Road which, when I moved to the area, was colloquially known as Murder Mile. The idea seems ridiculous now. An ongoing wave of gentrification caused by people like me has seen old man pubs drop like flies over the last couple of years. They have then re-emerged as craft beer pubs or what we’d once have called gastropubs (a term that seems quaint and archaic these days) to meet the needs of a new, high-spending clientele. The Windsor Castle is a bit of both, the name in the kitchen balanced by the great selection of beers, including Five Points Pale which is brewed above the Tesco Metro opposite my flat.

Or rather my ex-flat. By the time I returned last weekend, I had become a victim of gentrification myself, forced over the physical and psychological boundary of the Lea by Hackney’s ludicrous house prices. Again, I got the impression the kitchen was hanging on by its fingernails. They start serving food realtively late at 1pm but the menus weren’t printed until after then. To mitigate against any further wait, despite being the first customer of the day, I made the mistake of ordering some pork scratchings. These turned out to be the single worst pub snack I’ve ever consumed. You know when you buy a bag of scratchings and there is always a fat, stale one at the bottom that squishes rather than crackles? These were all like that. This was half to do with execution – their fat to skin ration was too high – but I suspect they had also been sitting around for some time.

But my lamb arrived promptly – yes, I asked for it without the sprat sauce – and lived up to my last meal: simple, clever, excellent. I’m glad I got in early though.

Written by Martin

19 March 2014 at 11:48

Posted in food

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  1. […] I mentioned, I moved recently. The reason I needed to leave my beloved flat was not just the constant […]

  2. I was in the Windsor Castle again at the weekend on a rare night out with my wife. We’d been planning to eat but the menu had changed dramatically and now consists entirely of identikit gastropub fare (onglet, watercress and chips, for example). A look at the website revealed the food page has been taken down and there is no mention of Rowe so it seems the two have parted company. We finished our drinks and left.

    Instead we ended up grazing at Candela and Verden. Candela is a Latin American bar and restaurant with the emphasis very much on the former given their slapdash approach in the kitchen. Points for brewing their own beer though (even if the finish was a little too rough for me). Verden is also more bar than restaurant – somewhat on the model of Borough wines’s L’Entrepot, just down the road – but much greater precision was on display. It was also better value for money – an unexpected surprise since they’ve clearly spunked a huge amount on the interior design. Gentrification marchs on.


    11 August 2014 at 12:24

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