Monday, 8 March 2010
The Draft House, Northcote Road
First, the good news. Both Draft Houses, that's the original, previously known as the Westbridge, on Battersea Bridge Road, and the latest on Northcote Road, have an absolutely stunning selection of beers, right up there with the best in London (and possibly only just behind the Rake in Borough Market). Not only are the drinks well selected, well kept and of impressive style and variety, they are also, from what I can gather, pretty reasonably priced. If you are a beer lover, you will absolutely adore the Draft House and never want to leave. If, however, food is your first love, then you may find less to admire.
The burger was the most successful of the dishes we ordered yesterday lunchtime. An attractive dark glazed bun, studded with sesame seeds, held not too much salad, a light spread of mayonnaise and a thick, perfectly-cooked slab of beef with a well-judged texture (ie. not too coarse, not too smooth). The beef itself wasn't probably the best I've ever tasted, but it was helped out by a stroke of genius in the form of a thin crispy slice of pancetta, providing a crunchy, salty hit. This was a good mid-to-high-end burger.
My fish and chips, however, were a bit of a disaster. Two tiny filets of white fish were soaked in a pale, soggy batter which was falling apart under the weight of its own grease even before I'd taken my first bite. The advertised "mushy" peas were nothing of the sort - just bashed up garden peas, completely unseasoned. And I counted about ten chips, nice and crispy and golden brown, but hardly enough to satisfy. The price tag on this rather bijou plate of food was £10.75 - that's over £3 more than at Masters Superfish in Waterloo, which by the way was about three times the size and came with cold prawns for a starter and bread and butter:
I have had, on other occasions, opportunity to try the Draft House's other shared starters and snacks, such as the delicious potted crab and ham hock and what is fast becoming their signature 'ox tongue fritters'. So I know that when the kitchen is on familiar ground and perhaps when they're more focussed they can produce some very tasty dishes. But I can't forgive that fish and chips I'm afraid - it didn't deserve to leave the pass and perhaps shouldn't have even been on the menu in the first place.
That said, you'd have to be a very miserable character - more miserable than me, if that's even possible - to not be charmed by the Draft House. To drink I chose a flight of 1/3 pint each of three different dark beers and all were superb. Even the spirits selection is impressive, with more different types of Scotch and bourbon and rum and gin than you will ever need. Service sparkled too - friendly and efficient and incredibly knowledgeable on the huge selection of drinks on offer. It's a nice room, too, with its bright green details and dark wooden panelling. They also had an old NME cover on the wall featuring a young Elton John, so I'm going to give them extra points for that.
But what about that fish and chips? A careless mistake? A rare misfire? A missing chef? Or a gastropub putting an item on the menu because it feels it should and not because it's confident it can get it right? Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, enjoy the Draft House for what it currently is - a friendly and attractive space to drink a pint or two of some of the most interesting and delicious beers in London, and to nibble on some crispy ox tongue fritters and a pint of prawns while you do. In fact, when you put it like that, who cares about fish and chips anyway?