Kew is synonymous with all things flora – not only its vast, botanical gardens, but also a circular green that partly doubles up as a cricket pitch. This is a hamlet-like piece of history and splendour in south London. Innumerable Georgian and Victorian townhouses line the green – as do more pubs than you can shake a stump at. Anyone lucky enough to live on Kew Green could easily exist on the wares of the many hostelries surrounding them.
Palate decided to embark on a sort of posh pub crawl, concluding with a meal in the north-eastern corner of the Green.
There could be no finer start than The Coach and Horses at the south end. Very much in the Young’s style, the pub is a hunk of early 1900s bricks and mortar; period details lovingly preserved both inside and out.
With luck, my partner in crime and I secured fireside armchairs in the left of two salons (as to which, the left room seems to be for dining and the right for general socialising). There can be no denying the joy of the setting: stripped floorboards; full bookshelves; crackling firewood and toile wallpaper to complete the look. At the bar, a guest ale sat among several Young’s beers and standard issue pumps (Guinness, brand lagers and the like). You can also take advantage of a sensational gin selection.
This was going to be a hard act to follow. I tried to think of a slower pace than crawling in a laboured attempt to excuse myself from shifting. But, a quart of hoppy brew having passed my lips, it was time to move on.
The Cricketers – the second stop – presented as though the traditional, Victorian inn my colleague and I had just left had procreated with a modern, high street pub. Located in the north-western corner of the Green, it benefits from a hint of river view and a bounty of opulent townhouses either side of it. These include some of the botany buildings associated with Kew Gardens. However, the country/village effect was merged with some strange touches, such as modern mirrors and tacky signage. In the same way that Henry Bolton (has he gone yet?) has no memorable features, so The Cricketers’ appearance is already leaving my mind. Certainly nothing appalling though and, more, the barman in attendance could not have been more helpful. A half of wintery guest ale was drained nicely – and I can vouch for its keeping. Unlike in the case of The Coach and Horses, I can’t picture revisiting unless on specific invitation.
Skipping over The Botanist – purely owing to its small chain status – it was time to put some food where only beer had so far lay and so my co-writer and I took the short stroll to The Greyhound. The pub, in a tightly narrow building beside Kew bridge, is highly popular with locals and touring diners alike. A strong atmosphere of noise and bustle filled the air while busy waiting staff zig-zagged through the bar and restaurant areas. Unlike the two previous venues, The Greyhound had totally modernised its interior. While it juxtaposes the Georgian plot it inhabits, at least the pub has chosen upon an identity.
Getting straight into food affairs, the ordering process with a gent who seemed managerial (and who is Italian, I believe) was slightly painful in that he elected to do the memory trick thing that has become so fashionable everywhere I seem to go. I don’t really see how it demonstrates anything, other than a will to get someone’s order wrong (which usually happens). If it’s an exercise in braying, I’d sooner the host said something like: “I happen to be a chess grandmaster but I do believe in writing down your order”.
Beef in different guises followed, with my colleague choosing a sirloin steak and I a slow-braised cheek. I had asked the kitchen (via the alleged memory guy) to replace my garlic mash with chips – and duly received garlic mash. I knew I would. WRITE IT DOWN. As to the merits of the food: I think it’s fair to say that both of us were underwhelmed. Or just whelmed. My co-diner’s steak was a little chewy and my beef was way over-seasoned. Plus, some of the beef was coated in an attempt to make a kind of “two ways” dish with the cheek and side fritter – but the result reminded me of The Simpsons’ Moe serving deep-fried everything in his bar. The dish gave me acid reflux for the rest of the night. I wish I’d left it. So, in contrast to the plethora of glowing reviews on Google, I could neither get excited about my dinner nor see what all the fuss was about. The waiter was good enough to comp a couple of coffees because of the garlic mash error. I’m willing to entertain the idea that The Greyhound was having an off night – but both meals were lacklustre.
The crawl produced no shortage of variety, though, it has to be said, The Coach and Horses is in a class of its own on Kew Green. Having felt that I’d missed out a little, I turned up unannounced last week (tout seul) and enjoyed the most stellar roast. Sat again in that left-hand salon, I hoovered up a trio of beef, chicken and pork, with suet-y Yorkshire pud and bonus crackling. I then plucked a couple of books from the shelves to waste time in the surroundings, stumbling upon a book of quotations. It contained the following: “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch” (Orson Welles).
by C Ley