Tuesday, 27 May 2008
The Prince of Wales, Battersea
It's surprising that confusion over similarly-named establishments hasn't been an issue before, given that all the pubs in London seem to share about five names between them. There is a very easy way to tell this Prince of Wales (on Battersea Bridge Road, near Battersea Park) from its namesake in Putney, however - the Prince of Wales in Putney serves good food, this Prince of Wales serves bad food.
In what was until recently a Settle Inn, refurbished tastefully if unspectacularly, I took refuge from the Bank Holiday rain on Sunday and gamefully tried to get myself excited about yet another bog-standard pub menu. It's less of a testament to the standard of food at the Prince of Wales than it is to the dearth of alternatives in this part of London that many tables appeared to be reserved and the room was almost full as early as 1pm. As with its previous incarnation as a Settle Inn, the thing to order on Sunday appears to be the roast - "Carve yourself at the table" they suggest, presumably because the excruciating pain of self-harming distracts from the overcooked broiler chicken and flabby cold vegetables.
The only reason I went for the chicken over the beef is that I couldn't face being presented with some dry, frozen Yorkshire Pudding, and I'd love to give them the benefit of the doubt and say maybe they make their own batter and do it properly, but in my heart of hearts I know I would have been given a cupcake-sized cardboard pillow, and the pain of that would have been too great. So chicken it was, and despite being the first to order that day, the chicken had already given up the ghost and fell off the bone in thin, chewy strands, the gravy was insipid, chipolatas similarly unimpressive and the bread sauce tasted of wallpaper paste. The roast potatoes were OK.
The best thing the Prince of Wales has going for it was the service - so often true of London restaurants these days, and something I am eternally grateful for - but confusion reigned over my dessert order. Clearly stated on the menu was "Choose from vanilla, chocolate & cinnamon", so I chose vanilla. The waitress appeared slightly hesitant.
"Er, how many scoops?"
"Well, how many am I - ...ten, please!". I thought if service was going to be so baffled by an order for vanilla ice-cream, I was damn well going to take advantage of the situation.
Sadly, my ice-cream when it did arrive consisted of one scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon - predictable I suppose, but still slightly disappointing. A friend's sticky toffee pudding was alright though.
As if in compensation for our mediocre meal, the weather gods decided to bless the rest of our afternoon with bright sunshine, and we strolled around Battersea Park enjoying the post-rainstorm aroma of wet grass and damp dogs. In fairness to the Prince of Wales, a full roast chicken and sides for £20 is probably as good as you're going to get in terms of value for money, but that doesn't mean, despite my new budget, I have to enjoy it. Maybe one day somewhere will show Londoners how it should be done, a lovely firm free-range chicken rubbed with herbs and seasoning, with goose-fat roasties and fresh summer veg. Until they do, there's only room for the one Prince of Wales in my life.