The Windsor Castle
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.