Saturday, 10 April 2010

the simple things in life: The Draft House, Clapham

I don't know about you, but there are times when I want to go out for a simple, tasty meal, cooked well, with something decent to drink on the side. And not to have to pay a ridiculous price for the privilege.

Draft House interior

could this be the place?

For a big city, London has an awful lot of places that don't fit the bill. Yes, there are thousands of cafes, bistros, and restaurants in this huge metropolis, but a dismayingly large proportion of them disappoint on one criterion or another. For that reason, I'm always on the lookout for new (whether literally, or just new to me) venues that promise the holy grail.

A few months ago, Twitter was a-flutter with rumours of a venture that sounded as though the grail might be opening soon and, better still, opening near me. The omens were good - Charlie McVeigh, owner of the acclaimed Le Cafe Anglais, was the man with the vision to turn what was a branch of the Pitcher & Piano into something, well, rather less of a pig's ear. (Actually, that's rather unfair to pigs' ears which, despite one or two pronouncements on MasterChef, are quite a treat, as finalist Alex Rushmer can demonstrate.)

Initial reviews were favourable, with special mention going to the Draft House's excellent range of ales...

Draft House bar

what you see in the picture amounts to about half the choice of ales on offer

... and its novel idea of offering them in third of a pint measures, as well as the traditional half and pint.

Draft House ales

from l-r: Wandle (quite possibly THE holy grail), Bitter & Twisted, Porterhouse Red

I visited for the first time for lunch on New Year's Day, not least on the basis that you might as well start the year in the manner in which you intend to carry on. Baked eggs, chips, sprout tops (where else serves sprout tops, I ask you?) and a selection of ales went down rather well, to say the least. Dinner there a few weeks ago involving meaty steaks and burgers scored highly, too. After a third visit last week I thought it was time I should give this happy, cheery place a little shout-out.

Because what they do here is good. Very good. And at very reasonable prices. It's not frilly, complicated, smoke-and-mirrors stuff. Instead, it's rather joyous food made from wonderful, carefully selected (and thankfully seasonal - the menu changes accordingly) ingredients by chefs who evidently take pride in their cooking.

And so, this is the kind of nosh they come up with:

Draft House squid and chorizo

squid and chorizo in their liquor

Draft House eggs benedict 1

eggs florentine, the uncut version

Draft House eggs benedict 2

eggs florentine, the cut version

Draft House scrambled eggs

scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (well, obviously)

Draft House rhubarb jelly and cream

rhubarb jelly and cream. In a half pint glass. Yay! Definitely not for kids ;)

You'll be relieved to know that I'm not going to ramble on and give you my pronouncements on everything we ate. But let me just say this - these dishes might look simple, but a great many places make a bloomin' great hash of them. At the Draft House, they look good, are cooked to perfection, taste fantastic and just as they should. I seriously doubt whether anywhere in London does eggs or greens (apart from sprout tops, I've eaten their equally meaty and minerally spring greens and spinach) consistently as well as they do them here. The jelly was not only fun, but truly delicious - not too sharp, but full of rhubarby spritz and tang nonetheless. And far from being just a extraneous afterthought (as the ugly cynic in me rather expected), the addition of the rich, gloopy, buttery cream took the whole thing up another notch - the combination with the jelly was a glorious revelation. Jelly and cream? Who knew?

And then there's the ales... Which are probably worthy of a entirely new post. Let's just say they're worth the visit.

The only downside to all this is that, inevitably, The Draft House has become a very popular place in a very short space of time. But the good news is that the eaterie part (separate from the bar area) takes reservations, so if you can plan a little ahead, you can still get a table even at the busiest periods.

Just don't nick my table. Please.

The Draft House on Urbanspoon


Kavey said...

Great review post, really enjoyed it!

Jonathan said...

Sounds like the Darft House is really cooking on gas. Great stuff. I love the thirds idea. Would love a Draft House in Gothenburg.

Understanding Alice said...

sigh... looks LOVELY

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Serving beers in 1/3 pint glasses is genius, I could try 3 different beers without getting legless.

Foodycat said...

A proper eggs florentine is such a joy! Why IS it so hard to find food of this calibre in London? Lucky for you I have no need to ever be in Clapham, so your seat is safe from me.

Niamh said...

I am well overdue a trip back here. The food looks excellent! If only it weren't so far away. Lovely post!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Kavey - thank you!

Jonathan - the thirds idea seems to be pretty popular. It's certainly a great way to try a few ales

Alice - that's because it is ;)

Sarah - yep, exactly

Foodycat - I wish I knew... It really shouldn't be anywhere as difficult as it is

Niamh - get yourself down here, lady!

clairetweet said...

This place looks fantastic, the food looks like just the type of thing we love. V. jealous. We ate out round here last week and the standard pub style fayre was pretty poor. Great post.

Gourmet Chick said...

I like your philosophy - start new year in the way you intend to carry on - much better than a new years diet!

Becci said...

I'm there... sounds aces.

Helena Lee said...

have always meant to try this, as it's so close to me, and your post has convinced me that it's criminal that i haven't.
You order exactly what I would too!

Thanks - great post.

A London Fishmonger said...

A very good post and some excellent pictures. I have to say for the beer alone this is the pub to visit in London and what complements the beer so well is the knowledge of the bar staff selling it as sometimes this is a major pitfall. You do indeed picture the two finest beers. The Wandle and The Porterhouse red which would both compete to be my death bed drink (may be through a drip though lol). I had myself intended to blog about the beer, however the visit turned into a session and I had forgotten what had happened the following day. Well done Charlie for a great Pub and to you for a great post :-)

Lizzie said...

I loved their ox tongue fritters. That egg florentine looks absolutely delicious.

Charlie McVeigh said...

Thanks for all of your wunderbar comments. We will of course place a Draft House on every corner in due course when funds permit (so keep coming!).

I should give you a little advance notice that we are quite far along on securing a site in the Tower Bridge area. Watch the website for more info Pip! Pip!

Manggy said...

Well, that's a disappointing revelation about London! But don't listen to me, when I was there I ate at a ubiquitous submarine (?) sandwich place whose name escapes me now, and Tesco :P
You'd think I'd be all aglow over the rhubarb jelly but those eggs are singing to me!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

claire - it's a shame so many places are not up to scratch, esp when there's nothing difficult about the food

Gourmet Chick - ;)

Becci - good expression. Says it all.

Helena - get yourself along there!

London Fishmonger - the ales are terrific, aren't they?

Lizzie - it was ;)

Charlie - you're welcome. I'm sure your Tower Bridge branch will prove every bit as popular

Manggy - oh dear. You really didn't do very well, did you? We must fix that next time you're here!

A London Fishmonger said...

"London Fishmonger - the ales are terrific, aren't they?"

They are the best, the best a man can get.

Sarah said...

There really aren't enough places in life that do all those things well. Will have to try this place out next time I make a trip across the pond!

LexEat! said...

I couldn't agree more that it's so hard to find good food for decent prices - there are more failures than successes.

This looks really great - I think I was sold on the green stool!

Anonymous said...

There are very good and really good food in your post. This very perfect for lunch and dinner. I always do equip my spice rack so that I can make dishes like this everytime I have a vacnt.

Spice Rack said...

There are very good and really good food in your post. This very perfect for lunch and dinner. I always do equip my spice rack so that I can make dishes like this every time I am vacant.

Life really i simple, it is up to you on how you react on the things around you.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

so annoyed i missed this one when i was over - but i guess i can come again and try it

this meal looks super - i especially loved the rhubarb jelly (we can't get rhubarb here)

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WMMc said...

I've been using your blog lately lately to help pick where we go out to eat and so I just wanted to give back a bit and tell you about this new absolutely fabulous organic vegetarian Italian place called "Amico Bio". I found it last week and have already eaten there twice. Love their Ravioli as well as their cauliflower fritters! Yum! They are located at 44 Cloth Fair London EC1A 7JQ

Have you heard of it yet?


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