Ealing Park Tavern v The Grange Pub and Dining Rooms
Ealing's gastro giants battle it out
Every man and his dog (yes, dog) has an opinion on which of these two gastro pubs is the superior. Time to put an end to all this squabbling but remember the judge's word is final, no return (except on the forum where I fully expect to be inundated...)
First up Ealing Park Tavern. Time Out give it the thumbs up, my dinner guests won't go anywhere else in Ealing, it even comes with a recommendation from doggie.org as somewhere to take the dog. Well, I wished I'd brought along a dog - it could have had my food.
I really wanted to like this place, to fall in with the crowd of Ealingers who rave about it and take guests from outside our leafy suburb there to give them a taste of how unpretentiously cosmopolitan we can be if we try (without appearing to...). And frankly I feel let down!
It wasn't all bad. EPT really is an impressive building and its eclectic hotch potch of furniture only adds to its fantastic atmosphere. There's a refectory feel about the place - raucous dining at its best. And the waiting staff were keeping the crowd under control - we couldn't have asked for better service. All it lacked was the hearty tavern fayre to match the mood.
To start I had the Smoked Haddock and Clam chowder. There's no easy way to break this to fans - it was bad. The main problem was the lack of smoked haddock and clam – it had got into a fight with the sweetcorn and the kernels were running amok. It smacked of stinginess to me.
Main course – poussin with chicory and new potatoes. Again I was disappointed. The poussin was bloody and yet over done, with all the flavour of a tough old bird bunged in the oven with no seasoning. There was nothing new about the new potatoes. They tasted like they’d been reheated in the microwave and I left them.
One guest ordered the vegetarian option as she wasn’t in the mood for meat. She regretted it. Stack root vegetables turned out to be a low-rise pile of beetroot. It would have been adequate as a kids’ portion...if my kids would touch vegetables. She sent it back.
For another guest, the lamb came with a black pudding accompaniment (unusual combination) as a wrap around, dwarfing it to children’s portion size again. It begged the question, were they cutting costs? And if so why are the prices so high?
Cheese then for me – my two courses had left me unusually hungry. The selection was passable but came straight from the fridge. We came to the conclusion that being second sitting on a very busy Saturday night must have been too much for the kitchen and its diminished larder.
Next up The Grange Pub and Dining Rooms
This gastro pub has come under fire, not least on the EalingToday forum, for quite some time, but it's a classy establishment and you never felt too sorry for it.
I must admit to having had a secret desire to see Ealing Park Tavern pip The Grange possibly because it's more sophisticated demeanor seems to give it the edge without necessarily deserving it.
I was wrong. It had more than an edge - it won hands down. But surprisingly it was not for being classy, but for doing what you'd hope to see at EPT - serving good, honest, well cooked food.
There was none of the pretention of the EPT menu here - sausage and mash, lamb burger and fish and chips are all on offer.
To start I went for the 'Baked Camembert to Share in a Box' and unfortunately I did have to share it. Not only was it cooked to perfection - oozing out of its case, but it came with an amazing pepper chutney. We asked for more ciabatta - the other guests may have enjoyed their own starters, but they still insisted on trying ours.
Main course for me was the grilled chicken breast, with cajun spice on cous cous. It doesn't sound hugely adventurous. But again, this was really well cooked and who needed an adventure, I was in the middle of eating?
Now a couple of moans! Sticky toffee pudding wasn't the best I've ever had - there's an amazing one sold around Yorkshire (Cartmell) which the chef should perhaps give a try for ideas. And cheese was again disappointingly straight from the fridge. All in all a good meal though, with great service and a great mellow ambience.
To sum up - the two gastro-pubs bring different things to the table, but you'd find me sitting at one in The Grange.
March 16, 2007