Wednesday, 30 January 2008
The Prince of Wales, Putney
Last night, while tucking into my deep fried pig's head in Putney, I found myself asking myself the question "Why do I eat at restaurants?". Not in a despairing, self-pitying way, although God knows those kind of thoughts have crossed my mind during more than a few meals in the past year. No, this turned out to be a very tasty plate of food and I enjoyed it. But more in a philosophical way - the food at the Prince of Wales makes absolutely no pretentions towards haute cuisine; it's straightforward to the point of basic, albeit comfortably seasonal and with some charmingly eccentric ingredients. But many of the dishes were so basic I could have made them myself, and believe me I am no expert cook. In these days of credit crunches, global uncertainty and looming environmental armageddon, is it wrong to pay to eat food you could have made yourself with very little effort? Should I be aiming to make my meals out more of a special occasion than just something to fill a hole of an evening?
Fortunately this weakness didn't last long. Of course it's not wrong to pay for simple food occasionally. Every mouthful consumed outside my front door doesn't have to be a life-changing gastronomic experience, and I shouldn't have to feel guilty for paying for someone else to cook for me, whether at Gordon Ramsay's or Munchies Kebab shop. And so next time I couldn't be bothered cooking of an evening I will waddle on down to the Fox and Hounds and order their brilliant broad bean risotto with my head held high.
Back to earth and back to the Prince of Wales. The aforementioned pig's head dish was neat little cubes of breaded pig meat, served with a home made tartare sauce (called Gribiche on the menu) and lovely softly picked red cabbage. Pig's head I've had served in a number of different ways and never know what to expect from one restaurant to the next, and I have to admit on being presented with deep-fried goujons I was worried they may be a bit much. However they were moist without being greasy, and the tartare sauce was a great accompaniment.
Next up was a couple of smallish fillets of nice fresh seabass on a huge mound of buttery greens. Probably slightly too many greens if I'm going to be picky, but they were good and I told myself you can never have enough of a good thing. And a friend's cheese and potato pie was as good to eat as it was attractive to look at, before she'd torn it apart with a knife and fork that is.
The room was prettily decorated and lit and service, seeming to consist of only one very attentive young lady albeit with only a loose grasp of the English language, was as good as you could have hoped for with only 3 tables taken on a quiet Tuesday evening. In fact towards the end of the meal I really had to struggle to find anything at all that wasn't good about the Prince of Wales apart from the worryingly empty room. Even the toilets were clean and new.
So, the London gastropub scene rolls on. It's very easy to get blasé about "yet another" good new place but the fact that this opened with such little fanfare shows how mature the restaurant scene is in London. I know I'm only judging from a quiet weekday evening but will even the good places struggle to get bums on seats with so much competition around? Let's hope not. The Prince of Wales deserves to do very well, and I at least will definitely be back. Credit crunch be damned.