The Mall Tavern, Notting Hill

The Mall Tavern is a pub in Notting Hill. It is very close to the bus stop for the Oxford Tube, which is handy when most of the table live that way. It’s not that close to Croydon though, and my 2 hour journey home wasn’t particularly fun. I can’t really blame The Mall Tavern for that though, I’ll have to rant at Southern Rail.

The chef is Jesse Dunford Wood, he has worked at some pretty fancy places like the 2* Gidleigh Park in Devon with Michael Caines. Jesse has also been on telly on MasterChef’s poorer cousin, Celebrity MasterChef. Probably a worthwhile gig if he got to meet Lisa Faulkner. You can watch him on you-tube making the Mall Tavern’s signature chicken kiev.

We arrived early and had a drink in the pub half of the room; ale is served in jugs, which is currently very trendy/wanky (delete as appropriate depending on which side of the receptacle fence you sit on).

We ordered a couple of bar snacks as we passed around the solitary menu that had been left on our table. Pork crackling was crisp and not too salty, which can often be the case. These devilishly moreish twigs of crispy skin were further improved by a little stir in a smooth bramley apple sauce. A bar snack of the highest order.

Two loaves of soda bread arrived on a wooden board with a quenelle of soft butter, hoorah for not serving it out of the fridge (cold butter criminals take note).  The bread is made on site daily and arrived warm, dense and malty on a wooden board. The father did the honours of cutting and breaking the loaf in four, very ceremonial, very sociable, very 2011 Great British Menu.

We shared four of the other ‘Great British bar snacks’ as starters. Five slices of ‘PGT Village’ smoked salmon, smoked on the roof of the Mall Tavern we are told, came with another loaf of soda bread. A small coracle of lemon floated proudly on the fishy waves.  The salmon was excellent, the flavour of the fish prominent despite the relatively strong smoke.

Brawn with radishes (£5) was also served atop a board. I found the mustard and caper dressing a little too acidic and preferred to eat the pig face with just a bit of radish.

Both the chicken liver pate with pickled red onions and parsley and mushroom and chestnut pate were both served with a generous pile of soda bread crisps, which worked well with the earthy, chunky mushroom and chestnut but rather overwhelmed the excellent chicken liver pate. Both were fine examples of their kind. All the dishes in the ‘Great British bar snacks’ section were perhaps a little large for one person to eat as a starter, I would recommend ordering a few and sharing them to kick off a meal, or with the bread a hearty lunch.

The main course of Cow Pie (£13) has been described as the best value plate in Britain, which is probably fair. It could feed a family of four, for a week.  A thick chimney of bone, like a gastronomic Didcot power station, spewed parsley stuffing and endless rich bone marrow over the top of a golden pastry crust. The filling was rich and meaty; first mushrooms and onions, then large chunks of beef. It was a beautiful hot summer’s day and arguably the wrong occasion to be attacking a pie so dense and comforting.

The silver vixen enjoyed a much more summery dish of mackerel and gooseberry, which was fresh, vibrant and not at all oily, while the sister chomped through more smoked salmon, this time in a fishcake. She said it was good; I paid little attention – far too deep in Cow Pie.

We shared The Arctic Roll selection to finish, as a bit of fun more than anything. A revamped take on the 80’s classic we were to select three different flavours: Muscavado was good, Gooseberry fool was pleasant but underwhelming, strawberry and rose was plain wrong – the rose dominating any strawberry flavour for a mouthful of Lush bath-bomb.  The ice cream middles were a little hard and crumbly and the sponge too reminiscent of wet cardboard. Some homemade Rolos’s redeemed things, dirty little nuggets of soft caramel in a crisp chocolate shell with a bitter cocoa powder covering. The bitterness, the crunch and then the oozy caramel – almost as good as the heaven sent and much underappreciated After Eight Munchies.

The service is attentive and the staff have a sense of humour (you’d have to if you are going to wear box fresh basketball shoes to work), we were treated like kings – or like a customer who has been seen taking photos of the food – so they’re savvy too!  The ever reliable Andy Hayler recently gave the Mall Tavern a great review, and this was a key reason why I decided to visit – the power of the blogger in action.

A happy family then, not least when the bill arrived, The Mall Tavern is, considering both quality and location, exceptionally well priced. A bargain even, making a very happy Yorkshire man of my Dad.

The nitty-gritty:

Distance from Croydon: Not too difficult if the transport system is working as it should be, and pretty shitting awkward if it is not, as I found out. Closest station is Notting Hill Gate.

It will cost you different amounts depending on how much you eat and drink.  Starters at around £5, mains at about £13, wine list starts at £16. Expect to pay a fiver for a pint of cold fizzy piss lager, ale is about £3.50.

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