Henry Harris has been a busy man of late. In addition to The Coach’s grand opening (and impressing Palate earlier in the year), and overseeing the kitchen at Three Cranes in the City, he is also supervising The Hero of Maida. Formerly The Truscott Arms, this pub very nearly ended up being turned into luxury flats: it was therefore an heroic move on the part of Harcourt Inns to save the pub, re-name it and give it a new lease of life.
My colleague and I arrived slightly early for our Sunday lunch reservation and so we killed time by imbibing pints of Portobello London Pilsner and Curious IPA outdoors on large circular wooden tables before ascending to the dining room upstairs. The ground floor bar was lively enough though I found the service on this floor a little frosty, in contrast to the much warmer service upstairs. That upstairs/downstairs disparity needs to be addressed.
The first floor dining room is airy with thought given to spacing, comfortable seating and air con, all of which immediately impressed. Like The Coach, it has had a sensitive restoration, removing the tired, lived-in appearance with a modern and clean look yet retaining the Victorian features.
As with the interior design, the menu is similar to The Coach, and indeed some dishes are literally identical, such as the Bayonne ham with celeriac remoulade. One could say this cookie cutter approach lacks imagination and that Harcourt Inns’ trio of pubs is a mini chain. The dish itself wouldn’t exactly get very far in MasterChef (being a simple assemblage of ham and remoulade that has probably been pre-made during mise-en-place and just needs a waiter to dole it out onto a plate). But I don’t mind simplicity if the ingredients are sourced well. It also shows confidence as there is nowhere to hide. My colleague’s salmon with horseradish cream also looked simple but was light and refreshing. Both dishes were just a shade under £10.
The Harris Franco-British touch is in abundance but come on a Sunday and it’s all about the roasts (all around £19 each). My shoulder of lamb was very well executed, as was my colleague’s roast beef. Both faultless, with a beautiful jus de viande and washed down with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone from a pleasing wine list with sensible mark-ups. They certainly don’t skimp on the portion size at Hero of Maida, the side dish of vegetables alone being enough to feed the five thousand.
After a short digestion break we plodded through to dessert (I suffer for my journalism). The ‘Maida Mess’ is essentially an Eton Mess – no real surprises here but no disappointment either. My colleague’s chocolate mousse with cherries was like a cake-free Black Forest Gateau. It’s all classic and ‘safe’ but everything is done well.
Any gripes? The mint sauce and horseradish cream were served in little ramekin dishes which were not suited for pouring – not particularly user-friendly but spoons were provided on request. Also, the soap had run out in the loos (hopefully the kitchen staff use different toilets and wash their hands at least somewhere). Nowhere is perfect.
The location is the icing on the cake really. After our restorative meal we walked it all off strolling around Little Venice and the Regent’s Canal afterwards, making for the perfect Sunday afternoon. I just hope it is equally as good at other times during the week. The residents of Shirland Road are lucky to have this as their local. But the sign of a great pub is one you would cross London for, and this one I would.
55 Shirland Road
by J A Smith