Taberna do Mercado – Spitalfields

Portuguese tapas in East London

C and I went to Taberna do Mercado for a light lunch during our lunch break (so had limited time). Arriving at the entrance in Old Spitalfields Market, we walked through the inviting covered terrace area and into the main restaurant, which is light and appealingly simple: lots of wood, not a table cloth in sight (I have an irrational dislike of table cloths), low-hanging lights and sturdy shelving displaying Portuguese products like bottles of oil, tinned fish, and wines, etc.

 

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Welcome to Taberna do Mercado – canopy extension

 

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Informal dining space inside Taberna do Mercado
 

We ordered four dishes and although our waitress told us to order more (that four wouldn’t be enough, and suggested another small plate, perhaps some protein) we decided to stick with just four, with the option of ordering another later if needed.

All four dishes were beautifully presented and were more than enough for lunch: a big bowl of green bean fritters @ £5.00, Terrincho Velho mature cheese made from sheep’s milk with toasted sourdough @ £8.00, ‘tinned cod’ in a red pepper paste served in a tin with wafer-thin pickled cauliflower and sourdough @ £8.00 and a spicy chicory salad special with almonds @ £6.00. All really, really tasty and unique.

 

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Green bean fritters @ £5.00

 

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Terrincho velho mature cheese – from sheep’s milk, with toasted sourdough @ £8.00

 

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‘Tinned cod’ – Cod with fermented red pepper paste served in a tin with toasted sourdough and pickled cauliflower @ £6.00

 

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Chicory salad special – spicy, with almonds @ £6.00

 

There’s an excellent selection of Portuguese wines – I had a glass of Quinta do Ameal vinho verde (dry white wine) @ £6.00.

 

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Main restaurant area at Taberna do Mercado

 

The verdict: Excellent and affordable food, in an informal and appealing space. Service was slightly off (in that our waitress told us – rather than suggested – to order more, without checking how much we wanted to eat for lunch). I’ll go back when I’m not restricted on time, as this is the kind of place to eat shared food leisurely and linger.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Portuguese
~ Address: 107b Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, London
~ Postcode: E1 6BG
~ Nearest station: Liverpool Street, Shoreditch High Street, Aldgate East
~ Website + menus: Taberna do Mercado website
~ Photos on flickr: Taberna do Mercado food photos
~ Location: Taberna do Mercado map

 

Taberna do Mercado Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

On the Bab – Covent Garden

This popular Korean street food restaurant doesn’t take reservations so allow some time for queuing on arrival.

On my visit earlier this week, H had arrived first, queued, and been seated at a small table for two by the time I arrived, meaning I skipped a substantial line at the door. Which was nice.

 

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Inside On the Bab – prepare to queue
 

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Rice poppers @ £3.50
 

It’s a small restaurant and tables were crammed in close together. It was busy, and although we ordered a bottle of Argentine Malbec @ £25.00 straight away, it was very slow to arrive. We pondered slowly over the food menu before ordering food, and chased the arrival of the bottle of red wine twice.

When our waitress brought our food a while later, we asked her to return it as we still wanted a drink first – the wine we’d ordered some time ago. The Malbec eventually arrived.

 

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Baek Ban – bulgogi beef with rice, salad and kimchi
 

I had baek ban – bulgogi beef (spicy, marinated, tender beef) with rice, salad and kimchi (spicy hot pickles) @ £11.90 (so good) while H had spicy pork bibimbab @ £9.50.

 
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Spicy pork bibimbab – as served

 

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Spicy pork bibimbab – mixed

 

The verdict: Not a restaurant to visit if you’re short on time (allow for queuing and slow service when busy). Well worth a visit for great Korean food though – the bulgogi beef was so good it’ll be a challenge to try something different next time. But I’ll try; the people next to us were eating bbang – steamed buns filled with meat (or mixed vegetables) and our waitress also recommended yangyum chicken – Korean style fried chicken in batter with crushed peanuts. Ready to return…

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Korean
~ Address: 36 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2E 7BD
~ Nearest station: Covent Garden, Charing Cross
~ Website + menus: On the Bab website
~ Photos on flickr: On the Bab images
~ Location: On the Bab map

 
On The Bab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lotus – classy Indian restaurant, West End

It’s 30th December, and it’s our new tradition to dine at a classy restaurant on this date (then stay in and eat home-made food on new year’s eve). After last year’s visit to the excellent Gordon Ramsay’s Maze we had wondered where to treat ourselves this year, when LardButty received an invitation to "go try out Lotus in Covent Garden” with a voucher issued on behalf of Chef & Manager, Bhaskar Banerjee, a ‘seasoned’ chef (doh!) who trained with award winning premium brands in India before creating an “inspired collection of signature dishes” in the UK.

Lotus:
• opened just over three months ago in August 2015 and already ranks #36 of 18,000+ London restaurants on TripAdvisor
• is named after India’s national flower (a water lilly representing beauty and non-attachment, reputed to smell of myrrh, that – importantly – lends its shape to India’s mother temple in New Delhi)
• sits in the Indian fine dining category alongside the likes of Benares, Cafe Spice Namaste and Cinnamon Club restaurants.

We arrived early for our 6.30pm reservation, following a visit to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House and shopping at Selfridges, full of the joys of the Christmas holidays.

 


 

Fine dining Indian restaurant between Leicester Square and Covent Garden

Arriving early this evening (with the intention of enjoying a leisurely cocktail at the bar if our table’s not ready) we are greeted and seated promptly. We not only order a cocktail each – a Nai Dilli Darbar for K: Indian whiskey, lemonade, black salt + lychee @ £9.75 and a Sames Margarita for me: tequila and cointreau @ £9.75 – but our waitress brings us complimentary proseccos as an aperitif too (really lovely prosecco served in impractically shaped, top-heavy flutes… we’ll say no more about that though).

 

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Bar area at Lotus

 

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Cocktails – Nai Dilli Darbar (Indian whiskey, lemonade, black salt + lychee) and Sames Margarita (tequila and cointreau)

 

While we’re leisurely reading the menu, our waitress (who seems very knowledgeable about the menu and specialities despite having worked here for only a few weeks) brings us Corn Chaat Golgappa – corn puffs filled with sweetcorn and herbs, normally @ £3.75. She tells us to pour the fresh jaljeera and tamarind ‘chutney’ (a runny green sauce) in to the corn shells, and – when it becomes fluffy – to eat straight away (in one mouthful! too messy otherwise).

We are also served rice, potato and finger millet poppadoms with fruity chutneys (mango and apricot, mint, red chilli and green tomato) – normally @ £2.75.

 

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Amuse-bouche/bite-sized hors d’œuvres: complimentary corn chaat golgappa with jaljeera + tamarind sauce and poppadoms + chutneys

 

The starter menu has some inspired offerings ranging from tandoori partridge and rabbit kheema to pigeon masala dosa and chicken wing tulips.

 

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Starter menu

 

To share, we choose cod cheeks, bream and tuna coated with semolina, curry and coriander dip @ £8.75 and butternut squash + chilli samosey with red beans, dates and tamarind chutney @ £6.75.

I love all of the ingredients of the samosa – particularly tamarind, and while the pastry initially looks quite dense, it really isn’t (it’s perfectly crumbly). While I thoroughly enjoy the samosa, the flavours are denser and much less subtle than those of the cod cheeks starter which are more delicate, lighter, and simply divine.

 

Starter recommendation: cod cheeks

 

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Cod cheeks, bream + tuna starter

 

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Cod cheeks, bream + tuna starter

 

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Squash + chilli samosey with red beans, dates + tamarind chutney

 

After all of the aperitifs, amuse-bouches and starters we have a breather before the main course and enjoy sipping gruner veltliner, one of my favourite dry white wines from Austria @ £31.75 a bottle (this one is a perfect accompaniment to spicy food).

Bhaskar Banerjee pops over to introduce himself, see how we’re doing, and talk a bit about the influences and style behind the unique dishes he’s created. It’s a nice touch (and something that I really like about my favourite restaurant, Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak where Nancy always does the rounds and talks to her customers, giving it her personal touch. Done well, it goes a long way).

For main course, K orders 23 karat gold lamb shanks khorma (neither of us are convinced that the gold leaf – which, we are told “aids digestion” – is necessary – but the lamb is amazing, slow cooked and falling off the bone with gorgeous spicy flavours) served with roast potato mash, papaya pickle, spices, green cardamom and cashew @ £21.75.

I order red snapper kebab with mustard essence, crisp Bengal gram and dill yoghurt @ £13.75 and a raita cucumber, rose petals + pomegranate @ £1.75 (gorgeous!).

And we share some sides:
palak pudhina paneer: spinach, coriander, fennel + mint scented sauce @ £6.75
dal maa dumpukth: black lentils simmered overnight with garlic, tomato, butter and cream) @ £5.7
saffron and green peas rice @ £4.75
house bread basket: variety of Indian flatbreads @ £3.75.

 

Main course recommendations: lamb shanks khorma and red snapper kebab

 

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23 karat gold lamb shanks khorma with roast potato mash, papaya pickle, spices, green cardamom + cashew

 

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Red snapper kebab with mustard essence, crisp Bengal gram + dill yoghurt

 

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Saffron + green peas rice

 

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Dal maa dumpukth – slow simmered black lentils + raita with pomegranates (right)

 

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Palak pudhina paneer – spinach + cheese

 

It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that we’re too full for a dessert… but in the interests of reviewing every course (!) we sample a raspberry and cranberry shrikhand with dumroot halwa @ £6.75 with two spoons (lovely, deep fruity flavours). Oh, and then there’s a complimentary sweet pastry to squeeze in (really nice).

 

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Raspberry and cranberry shrikhand

 

And, as if that’s not enough, there’s just one more amuse bouche taster-stylie-dessert:

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A final, complimentary taster sweet-pastry course

 

This meal for two would have been £184.00 including service so roughly £90.00 per person for a shed load of absolutely gorgeous, tasty (and taster) dishes and drinks.

The verdict: Great, classy Indian food with a difference. Good choice of drinks (without being overly extensive) and wine pairing recommendations. Really good service. Our table (table #16) was on the edge of the bar thoroughfare and server-station/till area where serving staff inevitably wait and can be quite busy, so – if booking a table, I’d recommend requesting a table in the rear area (where there are some booths and less people-traffic).

The memory of that lamb shank and red snapper will stay with me. I left feeling very full but wanting to return and try more of the menu. I’ll definitely be back…

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 17 Charing Cross Road, London
~ Postcode: WC2H 0EP
~ Nearest station: Leicester Square
~ Website + menus: Lotus website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Lotus food
~ Location: Lotus map

 

Lotus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Benares – Indian in Mayfair

Michelin starred Indian restaurant on Berkeley Square

Celebrity chef, Atul Kochhar may well be a familiar face, if you’re a fan of cookery programmes like Saturday Kitchen. And he’s the chef behind Michelin star restaurant Benares in London’s Mayfair, with a reputation for blending upscale Indian cuisine with British style.

Benares has been on my ‘to visit’ list for years. And GH’s arrival in London today (from the Caribbean) provided the perfect excuse to go and treat ourselves to a Christmas dinner with a difference. Starting with cocktails in the relaxing bar lounge this Friday afternoon, I had a gorgeous Saffron Daisy gin cocktail @ £14.00 (Sipsmith premium London dry gin with handpicked saffron, cardamom, sugar and lemon juice).

 

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Benares bar lounge

 

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Cocktails at Benares – saffron daisy gin (foreground), reverse vesper vodka martini (back), pineapple and ginger mojito (right)

 

We had a 2.30pm table reservation for our party of three. Not realising that the kitchen closes mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner sittings, we were politely hurried to our table (in the rather plain and dark restaurant) and encouraged to order quickly, as the kitchen was – very kindly! – being kept open for us. A bottle of picpoul de pinet (dry white wine) @ £29 and the two-course Christmas dinner menu @ £37.00 seemed appropriate for our festivities.

 

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Benares interior – dark and uninspiring

 

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Poppodoms and fruity chutneys + saffron daisy gin cocktail

 

For starters, GH and I both ordered vegetable and edamame bean seekh kebab with walnut chutney (a tantilising blend of flavours – just stunning), while GN had potato and pea samosa chaat with rose yoghurt and date and tamarind chutney.

 

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Vegetable + edamame bean seekh kebab with walnut chutney

 

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Potato and pea samosa chaat

 

For main course, GH and GN had grilled paneer with punjabi chickpeas, while I had kokum flavoured Mangalorean haddock curry with spicy tapioca mash, accompanied by a variety of rices and Indian flat breads (all of which was a treat for the senses and faultless).

 

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Grilled paneer with punjabi chickpeas

 

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Mangalorean haddock curry

 

While the portions might look quite small, we found them deceivingly filling (including complimentary bar nuts and poppodoms, along with sides of bread and rice, etc). Despite being full, it didn’t seem right to forfeit Christmas pudding so we shared one between us – a fab idea (Spiced. Perfect. Beautifully presented).

 

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Garam masala spiced Christmas pudding with vanilla bean + brandy sauce with raspberries and holly-shaped fruity sauce

 

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Novelty factor – expanding steaming flannels

 

Our waitress served what looked like a tray of mints, then poured hot water over them. The white balls started to expand, initially looking like something to eat, before fully growing into a tower – a steaming hot flannel – sterile for cleansing, and beautifully presented.
 

The verdict:
The food at Benares is Indian with a twist and is simply stunning. And there’s an excellent cocktail menu and wine list. While it’s a pricey, fine-dining restaurant, there are some affordable good wines on the list (eg. picpoul de pinet @ £29.00 a bottle). Eating here is definitely an experience that you pay a bit more for. And it’s worth it (our bill for three came to £270.00 including service).

Serving staff were on the ball, although – on our visit – there was an abundance of servers and, if anything, could have asked us if everything was ok less frequently.

While Benares is in a premium location on Berkeley Square in the heart of Mayfair, you wouldn’t know it once you’re seated in the first floor restaurant: there are no windows, it’s dark albeit with soft mood lighting. If the intention is ‘plain and simple’, I found the interior rather dull and uninspiring.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London
~ Postcode: W1J 6BS
~ Nearest station: Green Park, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus
~ Website + menus: Benares website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Benares
~ Location: Benares map

 

Benares Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Station Hotel – Gastro pub in South East London

Gastro pub and hotel in Lewisham Borough

Within spitting distance of Hither Green rail station in the Lewisham Borough, The Station Hotel is a Redcomb pub – a small group of traditional British ‘country pub’ style pubs – founded in 2009, with the aim of serving “simple, honest, fresh food, well kept ales with friendly and engaging service, set in a stylish environment”.

Our visit last night (a Friday evening) was an early birthday celebration for T. We’ve drunk in the bar at this pub a few times but it was my first time eating here – the food was great and reasonably priced for good quality, carefully sourced ingredients.

For starters, we shared a mixed mezze board of houmus, marinated tomatoes, feta and olives, cream cheese stuffed peppers, tzatziki falafel, and flatbread.

 

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Mezze board – shared starter @ £11.95

 

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Box baked camembert – infused with rosemary, thyme and garlic with red onion marmalade and crusty bread @ £9.95

 

For main course, K had a Station burger; T had roasted sea trout and I had beer battered fish and chips (all very good).

 

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Station burger – short rib from English herds, brioche bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, cheddar, onion rings and skinny fries @ £12.95

 

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Beer battered sustainable North Sea fish, chunky chips, crushed minted peas and homemade tartar sauce @ £12.95

 

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Roasted Sea trout – lemon + thyme mash, creamed leeks + chives, caper, chive + tomato vinaigrette @ £14.25

 

The verdict:Good honest food, along with reasonably priced drinks (a bottle of Chenin Viognier dry white wine was £20) our total bill for four came to £175.75 excluding service. One of the better pubs in Lewisham. I’ll be back.

 

Pub dining info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: pub
~ Address: 14 Staplehurst Road, Hither Green, London
~ Postcode: SE13 5NB
~ Nearest station: Hither Green
~ Website + menus: The Station Hotel website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Station Hotel food
~ Location: Station Hotel map

 

The Station Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Smiths of Smithfield

Simple food from the finest ingredients

Smiths’ priority is “to serve simple food made from the finest ingredients, served in a friendly way in a relaxed atmosphere”. They’re right on track as far as I can tell.

On our visit to the Spitalfields branch a few Friday evenings ago (which has since closed), we were warmly welcomed and shown up to the top floor. Every floor was packed and waiting staff were rushed off their feet but remained efficient and friendly throughout.

Our party of three chose a sharing board starter @ £17.50 – an interesting selection of tasters (from cured meats to grilled vegetables, to prawns and salmon to ham hock terrine and celeriac remoulade). Why this selection was put together as a sharing platter I’m not sure, as – although it tasted great – it was awkward and messy to pick at and share.

 

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Sharing board starter – house smoked salmon, ham hock terrine, celeriac remoulade, tempura tiger prawns, cured meats & grilled vegetable antipasti

 

We had a bottle (or two) of Prosecco at £29.00 a bottle, and for main course R and S both ordered slow roast pork belly with mash and green sauce @ £16.00 (with gorgeous crunchy crackling) and sweet potato chips @ £4.50, while I had roast stone bass with herb roasted potatoes, courgettes and fennel cream @ £14.50 and a portion of mushrooms @ £4.00.

 

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Slow roast pork belly – with mash + green sauce

 

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Roast stone bass – with herb roasted potatoes and courgettes

 

We were full. But given it was a Friday night and we were unwinding at the end of the working week, we couldn’t resist a dessert. Between the three of us we shared a sticky toffee pudding @ £6.50 (so good) and a peach melba @ £6.50 (nice enough).

 

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Sticky toffee pudding

 

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Peach melba @ £6.50
 

The verdict: Great simple, traditional British food (done fancy) with good service too. Informal style. Book ahead as it gets extremely busy (unsurprisingly).

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: British, international
~ Address: Spitalfields branch has closed down; Farringdon branch remains
~ Website + menus: Smiths website
~ Photos on flickr: Smiths images

 
'SMITHS' Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Princess Victoria – Shepherd’s Bush

Posh nosh Sunday roasts in West London

To celebrate L’s birthday, we went to one of her local pubs in West London for dinner last Sunday – the Princess Victoria. It was easy to see why it’s one of her favourites: bar staff were friendly and welcoming as we arrived even though it was busy, there’s a good range of craft beers and wines, and prosecco by the glass, as well as an appealing arrangement of whiskies and gins.

 

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Princess Victoria pub on Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush

 

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Bar: real ales on draft, fine selection of whiskies and gins
 

The child-friendly dining room was heaving with families and toddlers (with many kids entertaining themselves, on devices) perhaps a bit more of a ‘playground’ than I might have liked (hint: if you don’t normally choose to go to the kindergarten to eat your sandwich on a lunchtime, skip this place for a Sunday roast).

 
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Sample menu: Sunday lunch menu on 15 Nov 2015

We were a party of ten and most of us homed in on the Sunday roast dinners (generous portions and very good!):

 
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Rib of Cumbrian roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish – with roast potatoes + mixed vegetables @ £17.50
 

 
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Dingley Dell roast belly pork with crackling and apple sauce – served with roast potatoes + mixed veg @ £15.50
 

 
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Roast poussin, Yorkshire pudding and bread sauce – with roast potatoes + mixed veg @ £14.50
 

 
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Beer battered fish + chips with peas and tartare sauce @ £12.50

 

My roasted poussin was just gorgeous. The only disappointment being that the Scotch egg starter I ordered didn’t arrive (“amazing Scotch eggs” with runny yolks as recommended by L). Still, it seems like a good excuse to go back and try again…

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: gastropub
~ Address: 217 Uxbridge Road, London
~ Postcode: W12 9DH
~ Nearest station: Shepherd’s Bush Market, East Acton, Shepherd’s Bush
~ Website + menus: Princess Victoria website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Princess Victoria food
~ Location: Princess Victoria map

 

 
Princess Victoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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