Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Lady Mildmay, Newington Green

Leaping around from one astonishingly brilliant new restaurant to the next, as I'm lucky enough to do as a food blogger, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that actually, London isn't just stuffed to the brim with great restaurants at every conceivable price point. True, we've made huge leaps forward in the quality, number and variety of places to eat in the ten-and-a-bit years I've been writing this blog, but the continued existence (and, *shudder*, growth) of places like Frankie & Benny's or JRC Global Buffet on our nation's high streets is just something that isn't going to change any time soon.

And maybe it doesn't have to. Yes, the residents of Madrid or San Sebastian can point to the fact that you can just duck into the nearest tapas joint and be pretty certain of a decent feed, but what about if you want a pho, or a hot pot, or an egg hopper? I used to get annoyed about the depressing success of awful lowest-common-denominator chain restaurants but perhaps they're nothing more than the price we have to pay for the incredible variety and innovation going on elsewhere.

Also, I can't help noticing that even aside from the usual places that get all the attention, there has been a noticeable improvement in the "average" (I don't mean that to sound disparaging but I suppose it is a bit) local restaurant or pub. Time was, a Sunday roast from anywhere that wasn't a notable gastropub or steakhouse would be a fairly uninspiring combination of boiled veg, packet gravy and overcooked beef, but a more discerning population means everyone's local has to up their Sunday game.

So to the Lady Mildmay in Newington Green, chosen for a friend's birthday lunch and - it's fair to say - not really on the radar of insufferable London food scenesters like me. And OK, it's not the Drapers, it's not Quality Chop, it's not even Blacklock who do an insanely great Sunday roast for £20 and has people falling over themselves for a table. But what it is is a very decent, generously portioned lunch for not a huge amount of money, in a lovely old Victorian pub in a very pretty part of London and I enjoyed it rather a lot.

Best of the roasts we tried was beef rump cap, pink and tender and served with a nice rich gravy. The Yorkshire pud had (I think) been made a little while in the past, and was doing a passable impression of a pud-shaped water biscuit, but it still wasn't horrible. Also say what you like about kale, but those frilly leaves really carry the gravy, and I'd much rather they were on the plate than not.

Cod and mash with leeks and parsley was so old school it could have come from a different century, but was actually cooked very well, with a nice crisp skin and good, defined, bright white flakes of fish. The butter content of the mash could have done with learning something from the French, but this was a minor point. Also, look at the amount of it - plenty for your £15.

Lamb was probably the most disappointing of the roasts, but even that wasn't too bad. I don't like the "pulled" shoulder presentation that seems to have gone around the city lately, and the gravy seemed thinner and less full of flavour than the beef's - the lamb itself was lovely and tender though. There was also chicken (or rather stuffed poussin), which I didn't try, but which seemed to go down well with those that ordered it. Oh, and a really decent cheese course, and some desserts which I completely forgot to take photos of, probably because we were chain-drinking bottles of red and more interested in enjoying ourselves than recording the moment.

Which is what Sundays should be about really - holing up in a handsome Victorian pub in North London while the snow falls outside, getting slowly but surely pissed on Languedoc and delaying the journey home until the Uber surge ends. Professional (ha!) detachment requires I mark our meal based on the objective quality of the meal, and so I will. But as afternoons go, I doubt I've had more fun in months, and I'm almost certain to be back. And in the end, there's hardly any greater compliment than that.


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