Sat 22 Nov 2008
Usually when I'm planning on eating in a pub in London I have a variety of resources on which I draw to ensure that I've got a good chance of hitting a happy combination of good food, good beer and a good atmosphere. Normally I consult more than one such oracle and spend a disproportionate amount of time agonising over location, decoration, price and menu. Yes, it's very sad.
However, on Saturday as we left the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter (more on that later) the need for food was quite pressing. The weather wasn't great, so it had to be near to Marylebone station, and Andy was in need of a beer.
Thanks to the magic of internet enabled mobile phones I was able to make a quick visit to fancyapint and find us a venue. The closest 5 pint pub to Marylebone tube happened to be the Windsor Castle so off we headed.
The pub is home to a Thai restaurant, which is upstairs and opens at 6pm - which we found out as we tried prise open the door! So there was nothing to do but settle down at a table and ... have a beer. There's not a huge selection of beers on offer: three handpulls and a few standard lagers. Still, the pints of Wells Bombardier and Adnam's we ordered seemed in good order.
The pub is reasonably traditional in layout: small bar and a couple of rooms that aren't huge, but it's definitely not poky. The walls are crammed (and I mean, CRAMMED) with photographs. Celebrities adorn the bar and a couple of wall panels are dedicated to various shots of the royal family.
We were eventually allowed in the tiny restaurant. Wall decoration follows the royal theme and the tables are set with alarming plastic laminated green gingham tablecloths. To say we were a bit scared is something of an understatement! Still, putting on a brave face we decided our meal would either be excellent or monumentally awful.
And I'm so happy to say it was excellent and very cheap! The menu contains the usual suspects as well as a few new turns - so we needed some time (and some prawn crackers) to inspect it. The star turn of the starters was, without a doubt, my spicy Thai sausage. This was delicious: spicy, lemongrassy, full of flavour and dense with meat. Given the sausage's 1 chilli on the menu I was wondering how hot my 3 chilli main course would be. A milder version of the sausage also appeared at our table which, while good, had to play second fiddle to its spicier cousin. Six small vegetable spring rolls and some dumplings also got the thumbs up.
For our main courses we had both red curries on the menu. Mine was the spicier of the two: almost ferociously hot, with just barely cooked veggies (that's a good thing - I worry about vegetables sitting in curry sauces for days on end ...) and a curry base not too laden with coconut. We also had a vegetable green curry and a seafood noodle dish.
As we were starving it didn't take us long to polish off the food, but we were lingering over our drinks. The restaurant manager eventually asked us if we'd mind moving down to the bar as they had a reservation that needed seating! Throughout our meal the service was quiet, efficient and friendly - even when we were being asked to move it was done in the nicest possible way.
The final bill was just £66. For two courses each, for four people, in central London - I think that's something of a bargain. If you ever find yourself knocking around Marylebone/Edgware Road you could do a lot worse than nipping in for a drink or something to eat. Whatever you do - don't let the distinctive décor put you off!
Now I, for one, am on the hunt for spicy Thai sausage recipes!
1. The Windsor Castle, 27-29 Crawford Place, W1H 4LQ, phone: 020 7723 4371, map.
Another London pub we like: The Charles Lamb in Islington. Stumble It!