"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, June 25, 2007



Hands up. Who knows where the The Frontline Club is? Hands up anyone who has even heard of it.

Nah, me neither.

That was until last night when a mail from an old college chum called Kate,confirming lunch had me pondering on “somewhere decent within walking distance of Paddington Station” not what the sports commentators would call " an easy ask" where it's easier to get crystal meth than a piece of fruit.

Kate, bless her, was always pretty demanding back in the old days and it is nice to see that she has changed not a jot in the ten years since we last set eyes on each other.

It seemed appropriate that, given that we had tracked each other down via Google, that I use the same method to find somewhere for lunch and, at the top of the page, was The Frontline Club.

As the name suggests, the two and a half year old restaurant is found on the ground floor of a private members club which counts amongst its membership people from all aspects of the news media and dedicates itself to the memory of those who have lost their lives in pursuit of intelligent news coverage in battle torn places.

All this is worthy enough but has precious little to do with having a good meal. However, the menu also shows signs of intelligence with a very British selection set at a notch or two about gastro pub level.

Pricing is pretty smart too with starters, at £4-8 including London Particular (a thick pea soup) light salads, Scallops and Crispy Pork with Hot Tewksbury Mustard & Watercress. Main courses, ranging from £10-14 offer up Pork Chop with Pan Haggerty, Cottage Pie, Skate with brown shrimp and caper butter and Mersea Fish Cakes.

Given the tendency of the news these days to be a triumph of style over substance, it is about right that the meal itself was better in the reading than in the eating. Not bad, but not quite living up to expectations

While I ploughed my way through slightly tough breaded pork whose flavour was drowned out by too strong a mustard, Kate kept herself occupied by gnawing on some frighteningly large Gordial olives and bread ( £2.50 extra, but not brought to the table unless ordered which is rare these days )

I was in full pork mode and went for the Citrus Pork Chop with Pan Haggerty. The chop was full of flavour and backed up the restaurant boast to source everything from small independent farmers. The Pan Haggerty reminded me of why so many British regional dishes are dying out. So many are f**king disgusting. I left most of it.

Kate’s fish cake was about the size of a soft ball and she seemed to enjoy it as she did the inevitable “triple cooked chips” which although leading to a weary eyebrow raise, were rather tasty and suitably crispy.

Puddings come in at £4 which is reasonable and we split something called a “champagne rhubarb whim wham” I had a couple of bites and left the rest to Kate who scraped the large martini glass in which it was served, clean. I suspect that means it pushed all the necessary buttons for a pudding.

The real joy of The Frontline Club is, however, their wine list. It may surprise a lot of you to think that journo’s like a drop in now and then but this place has, arguably the best wine list I have ever seen in a mid range London restaurant and at some incredible prices.

The list was constructed by Malcolm “superplonk” Gluck which means that you do have to wade through some irritating chatter to get to the heart of the list, but once you do, it is incredibly varied, unusual and well priced with wines from £13 upwards and at least 30, I think, by the glass.

Glasses of Beaujolais and a suitably pissy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and some fresh mint tea brought the bill to about £40 a head including service which is depressingly average for a two and a bit course meal with wine and coffee, in London these days.

They are open from 8am for breakfast, through afternoon tea and right on until 11pm for supper. So, I can see myself popping in again if I am in that part of town and the only alternatives are the dodgy kebab shops near the station

Definitely a worthy place and, while the food does not make for attention grabbing headlines, the wine list is definitely excellent breaking news.

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