The Charles Lamb
Sat 20 Jan 2007
After Thursday's storms we were wondering if we'd ever make it to London (would the roof be back on King's Cross station?) and we knew that by the time we did get there we'd be in need of a drink and a good feed.
And this is the type of thing you can't leave to chance so I had to do some research and pick a couple of contenders. The Charles Lamb happened to be the pub that was closest to the station and also happened to have a table spare, so we grabbed a beer and sat down to investigate the menu.
The beer front at the Charles Lamb is good. I had a Chiswick Bitter (one of the things I miss about living in the south is Fullers beers) and Andy had a pint of Amstel. There were plenty of other draught beers to choose from (it would have been a shame to have a Timmy Taylors!), and an interesting selection in the fridge. Any pub that sells Westmalle Dubbel and suggests drinking it with some chocolate gets my vote!
The menu at the Charles Lamb is quite short but does a good job of covering enough ground that only the fussiest eater would be disappointed. The starters are around the £5 and the mains are around £10. There are also some interesting bar snacks so even if you're only popping in for a drink you might find yourself nibbling on something.
Although I was really tempted to start with the pork rillettes our schedule didn't really allow for too much dawdling over lunch, so we set about negotiating over the main course selection. My initial choice was the roast pork belly with watercress, potatoes and quince aioli. I was a bit scared by the sound of the aioli but not enough to suggest that since I had found the pub I should get my first choice of dish. This left Andy with the duck confit with braised red cabbage and mash (poor man). This is pretty typical of the type of food that's on offer at the Charles Lamb - properly simple, tasty and hearty food. I had an emergency rush to the bar to get a glass of wine to go with my pork - I settled with a large glass of Cotes du Rhone. I admired the barman's honesty - he said he couldn't advise me on wine but could do on beer and whisky!
My glass of wine secured, the food arrived and it was ... beautiful. It was beautiful to look at, a beautifully generous portion and absolutely beautiful to eat. I think you only need to look at that pork crackling to know that I immediately felt guilty about making Andy opt for the duck. The slightly scary quince aioli was an absolute revelation. The combination of sweet, garlic and slightly sharp quince was brilliant and complemented and cut through the richness of the pork. The potatoes were soft and buttery, the watercress hot and spicy ... it was all good.
I also had a munch on Andy's braised cabbage and tested out the duck confit - the dish was definitely on a par with the pork. At a table next to us, we spotted the fish and leek pie which also looked good.
The only dessert on offer was a Portuguese custard tart (for a whole £1.20) but time was marching on and I had to make do with inspecting the tarts of our neighbours!
And the final highlight - and essential to all good pubs - was the pub dog, Mascha.
We left the Charles Lamb full and happy - and our pockets only a little lightened ... the pork was £11 and the duck a whole £10.50. Who says eating in London has to be an expensive rip off?
1. The Charles Lamb, 16 Elia Street, Islington, N1 8DE, phone 020 7837 5040
tagged with: pubs, london