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?


The Draft House on Urbanspoon


The Happiness Project London said...

Shame - I went there last year shortly after it opened and had a delicious bavette steak which was wonderful. You can't get fish and chips wrong though if you're a pub!! Agree atmosphere and drinks great but food touch and go.

Sasha @ The Happiness Project London

Charlie McVeigh said...

Chris, dreadfully sorry (and fuming) that the fish & chips disappointed. Generally, it is a dish which I am proud to be associated with (the Westbridge built its success on that dish alone virtually!). Investigation underway and will be trying the dish again tomorrow.

Hollow Legs said...

I think someone should start a campaign to get rid of these pea purees that seem to accompany gastropub fish and chips. There is NOTHING wrong with marrowfat mushy peas. They are the best.

Mr Noodles said...

A decent pub burger is always a winner! The bun in particular looks above par.

PDH said...

That Master's Fish and Chips looks awful, is the skin still on it?


Chris Pople said...

Charlie: Thanks for your comment. To be honest, if you just got in some marrowfat peas I'd be 100% happier :)

Mr Noodles: It was a good one!

Paul: I should hope so. Proper chippy fish always has the skin on. Have you ever been to a real Northern chippy?

Paunchos said...

Good looking burger and damn fine thirds of ale. We had a very impressive bloody mary here to wake us up on a cold and frosty Sunday morning. Shame about the fish and chips. But it sounds like they will get fixed!

Unknown said...

Chris - Perhaps you should consider renaming this blog Cheese and Burgers? Not quite the same ring to it but reflective of your current obsession which is educating us all!

Helen said...

Agreed on the peas. I know marrowfats are a bit of a pain but worth the extra effort. I think the problem is that they are worried about the colour. Obviously marrowfat peas don't have that green colour naturally...

Anyway. I really want to go and visit for the beer selection. I may also have some fritters.

Falaise said...

Our daughter loved the fish and chips (although she is 18 months so is pretty uncritical. The burger is very good as are the potted dishes and the ox tongue fritters. They also source their cheese from Hamish Johnston.

The staff are very friendly, the beer selection is fantastic and, on the whole, the food is tasty. Would recommend it to anyone.

Charlie McVeigh said...

About 2/3 of yesterday's management meeting was taken up with the fish & chips and - in particular - the mushy peas. Helen is right, the difficulty is colour. The mushy peas we know and love are from a tin and contain blue and yellow E-numbers to make them glow green-in-the-dark. We are not in favour of that, nor - perhaps prudishly can we countenance tins (or, at least, chef Sabrina can't). So that leaves us with changing the name to pea puree, which we are doing at our next menu re-print.

As for the fish, we are going to test 5 different types of fish (Coley, Pollock, Cod, Haddock and a frozen version of the latter two). Why frozen? It's Rowley's idea - he claims that a freshly-battered bit of frozen fish comes out best of all. We shall sea.

Finally, the batter. We are confirming to all staff longer cooking time to ensure more crunch and are looking at different types of beer (Flensburger Pilsener is the lead candidate) to see which will yield the most explosive quality and create the "bits" we all know and love.

Finally, who remembers "Mick's Skinless Cod" off White City Road - one of my all-time favourite restaurant names (name has subsequently changed to something more anodyne).

Thanks for all the input guys.

Charlie McVeigh said...

Just noticed dreadul, unintentional sea/see pun at end of paragraph 2 of my last comment. Must. get. life.

Chris Pople said...

Charlie: Equally delighted, embarrassed and flattered that my post has taken up so much of your time! Many thanks for the carefully considered feedback.

Just thinking though - is there a way of getting marrowfat peas without the colouring? I'm sure I've had them in various places before, and they aren't a great colour but taste really nice.

Interesting on the frozen fish - instinct would suggest fresh is best, but of course with the batter keeping the moisture in it may actually work in your favour to have a slightly drier fish flesh.

Anyway, as you say, "we shall sea".