The Warrington (second visit) – Maida Vale

The Warrington is a gorgeous pub. Decked out with thick carpets, rich mosaics and stained glass, the place looks like it’s straight out of a movie. It’s also local to me – so local that upon walking in earlier this week, I saw my absolutely bonkers downstairs neighbour enjoying a pint with people who I can only assume were friends crazy enough to hang out with him (for those who haven’t heard the story, he’s a mean bitter old man, and I don’t like him). The Warrington’s restaurant is upstairs. It’s much brighter. there are more whites and flowers – a much more diner-friendly tone.

The boy and I were here for The Warrington’s British Food Fortnight menu event – an autumn ingredient-inspired menu now being served at The Warrington for either £18 (2-courses) or £22 (3-courses).

We started out with the Bowl of Cornish clams, parsley, pear cider:

Followed by the DedhamVale salt beef, mixed bean salad and English mustard:

And the Colchester oysters two ways, natural and spiced Worcester sauce and bacon:

I was warned upon ordering that the bowl of clams included cream even though it wasn’t listed on the menu. As soon as it was brought I wondered why they didn’t list it as an ingredient. It was pretty much the only thing the clams were soaked in. Apart from the flashes of green parsley, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that there was anything else in it, apart from cream.  It was a very difficult task finding any hints of pear cider or even the taste of the clams themselves.

The salt beef was better. A creamy texture and enough mustard that your nose slightly flares if you breathe in too quickly.  It was gobbled up by the boy very quickly, which is always a good sign.

I was split on the oysters. The cooked Worcester sauce and bacon oyster was lovely. The bacon on top was particularly tasty, reminding me of the uber-salty American bacon bits that I really shouldn’t like, but totally do. The raw oyster just wasn’t my bag, but I am certainly no connoisseur to tell you if it was quality or not.

Mains were the ‘Butcher’s choice’ selected cut of the day, which was a pork loin and garlic mash:

…and the Whole roasted sea bream, pickled cockles and lemon:

The pork loin, was the boy’s.  I am obligated to mention that the boy wants to be clear to the readers of this post that he absolutely loved it and thinks it’s one of the best dishes he’s had in ages. I, on the other hand wasn’t as inspired.  The first bite I tried was rather dry.  The glaze on top was on of those indeterminable brown sauces that neither add or detract from the meat itself. I didn’t think it was anything special.

The sea bream was lovely though! Also called dorade, depending on where you are in the world, the dish reminded me very much of the dorade I had at Ramsay’s maze. It’s a mild fish with a crispy skin that tends to take on the characteristics of whatever it’s served with – in this case the tartness of lemons and sea grit of the cockles.  It was put together well, and very tasty.

Desserts were the Selection of British cheeses with quince jelly:

and the Apple and blueberry crumble, clotted Jersey cream:

Is it a selection of British cheeses when there are only two? I’m not convinced. Although a very nice stilton and cheddar, they were – neither blew us over. The biscuits that accompanied the cheese were tasteless, resembling cardboard at best and the dollop of quince jelly (one of my favourite things in the world) was so small we were lucky to enjoy it with more than three bites of cheese.

The crumble wasn’t much better. The apples were so tart that whatever sugar was in the crumble topping cowered away, totally overpowered. It looked the part and was a perfect portion size, but unfortunately just wasn’t very good.

The Warrington, just like last time I went, was a mixed bag.  There are some great things on the menu, and many of them are executed flawlessly, but then they mess up on the most random or simple stuff. For a restaurant that Gordon Ramsay puts his name on, I’d expect better.

Full disclosure and a bit about the meal:

I was originally invited to come to a blogger event to sample the autumn menu, but the format of the evening changed, and I suddenly found myself dining with the boy, free of charge on behalf of Gordon Ramsay’s PR.

There’s been quite a bit of debate over the whole ‘invite to review’ posts, and out of this experience I’ve learned one thing: An off-the-street experience is key to any restaurant review. I’ve been to The Warrington before, so I know how it is, both service and food-wise (part of why I didn’t feel so bad).  I thought it would be interesting to compare the review experience to it, and it was.  I could talk about how accommodating everyone was, but it wouldn’t be an accurate representation of what it would be like to go there if you read this review and decided to pop in, so I decided not to talk about it. What I can tell you is that the staff at The Warrington believe in what they do. The manager talked to every single table in the restaurant (and they weren’t all bloggers and journalists – though I did see TehBus, EssexEating and the lovely PearCafe there. Hello!); the staff smile when they talk about the food they serve and the patrons are regulars – chatting with each other, exchanging pleasantries from across the restaurant.  It’s nice to see.

It was a lovely experience, but it hasn’t changed my stance on ‘invite to review’ posts: I’m happy to come in and review anything whether I’m paying or not, but it has to be anonymous, and I’ll always disclose the nature of the agreement.

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