THE PRINCE OF WALES: A RIGHT ROYAL REPAST
Who’d have thought it ? Two visits in as many weeks to areas of London with SW in the Post Code. Actually, not so strange. Before I ascended to the heights of North London a decade ago, I lived in various locations south of the river. My first job was in SW15 and (hard to believe, I know) I even did some courting involving many trips back and forth across Putney Bridge. So any return was always going to be very evocative and full of amazement at the rapid passage of time.
The Prince of Wales is situated on the Upper Richmond Road a short walk away from the rather ghastly Putney High Street (Chain coffee stores ? We got ‘em). It’s the elder sister of The Bull and Last in Highgate and the MO is roughly similar: a bunch of people with a lot of experience in the restaurant biz have got together, found some great ingredients, cook them with care and accuracy and serve them in a professional yet relaxed manner. Piece of piss, really. As I said in my post about the B&L, all (shudder) gastropubs should be like this but sadly aren’t.
In some ways I preferred the PoW. It’s a lot more relaxed. The Pub bit is separate from the restaurant bit so there isn’t the scrum at the bar to order food. On a Saturday lunchtime it was more or less full but things felt a lot less harried. And most importantly, you’ve no chance of running into Giles Coren. A deal closer or what ?
The menu here isn’t as diverse or as large (the small kitchen and brigade probably mitigate against that) but the food is terrific. I always order Scotch Eggs whenever they’re on the menu. This one was great: porky and herby and the perfect amuse with a well-kept pint of Black Sheep.
The Native Oyster season has finished but some Colchester Rocks were briny and delicious and were as good as you’ll find. Au Naturel is best when it comes to bivalves but a drop or two of lemon juice or some shallot vinegar is always interesting to try.
Small Cornish Squid was sliced and coated in a mixture that had a little paprika in the mix then quickly deep fried. It was some of the most tender I’ve tried (apparently flash freezing does the trick) and really didn’t need the accompanying dip or salad, decent though they were. They didn’t need a fork either – this was a job for fingers.
A slab of Rump Cap was cooked pink and was nicely beefy although the unctuous Wild Garlic Butter slathered over the top stole the show. Triple cooked chips were crisp and crunchy and the real thing – they’re not always. I didn’t think the wooden board thing added anything but it only really registered after I’d eaten my main course.
The signature dish in terms of what the other punters were going for appeared to be the Fish and Chips and the big hunks of Haddock wm ith Chips looked the business, although seeing them on a board brought back unhappy memories of those I’d had at Tom’s Kitchen. Difference is, these examples looked much, much better, cost a tenner and were served with proper ketchup.
I’ve gone right off puddings in high-end restaurants. They tend to be an unwelcome sugar overload at the end of a usually very rich meal. I’ve had much better desserts in pubs which are restaurants, for example, The Red Lion. Like the Bull and Last puddings at The Price of Wales - well, the one I had – was impressive. A Salt Caramel Chocolate Fondant with Peanut Butter Ice Cream was rich and luxurious without being cloying – every mouthful brought a little smile (well, that’s as much as you’re going to get from me). A comped glass of Recioto widened that smile.
Coffee was superb – I knew it would be – and there was a very nice Calvados that spoke of apples and le trou normand.
Service from manager Bernie was friendly and on the ball and he seemed to breeze through a busy service, even with me interrupting and asking stupid questions. The kitchen seems to work without muss or fuss and turns out accurately cooked and tasty grub at what I think are very reasonable prices. It all looks so effortless, but of course that’s professionals for you – always making it look easy. Bastards.