As the dark evenings and chilly days of autumn close in, it’s natural to start tiring of the al fresco summer dinner. Hearty food is making its annual comeback and there can’t be many better ways to appreciate it than at The Mall Tavern in the heart of Notting Hill.
Décor and Ambience
Despite a fairly small bar and dining area, The Mall Tavern’s high ceilings and numerous mirrors at least give the impression of space if nothing else. Relaxed is most definitely the word however. By 7pm, the dining space is tastefully illuminated with a few soft table lamps – nicely mirroring the golden outside air. Its ‘autumn indoors’ and a perfect setting to enjoy a big comforting Sunday roast or intimate dinner party with friends. Certainly not somewhere you’ll want to leave in a hurry and happily the service reflects this too. Rather than focusing on getting as many tables turned over as possible, the waiting staff is content to let us enjoy the meal at our own pace. By 8pm, the place is alive with the sound of well-fed diners who have bedded in for the evening.
The simple and comforting decor of The Mall Tavern
Clientele and atmosphere
How do people get so drunk so quickly after they finish work? The Mall Tavern’s bar area is already crawling with the after work crowd at 6pm – busy letting their hair down after a hard day of sending emails and looking out of the window. The clamor is slightly above the level of pleasant chatter. Thankfully, the dining area around the corner largely shelters you and you can order from the extensive wine list and get happily drunk on your own in peace –with the sound of chatter humming away in the background. If you like a lively atmosphere then it’s perfect – if you are looking for quiet time then steer clear. Unless it’s weekday lunchtime before the bankers have had that fourth martini and started hitting on their secretaries.
You could also book out the cheery private dining room upstairs to get away from it all. With your own waiter, music and decorations you can celebrate away from the buzzing crowd below decks. Or you can ask about an evening at the kitchen table for a five course feast finished off with the famously choreographed dessert dance.
The Kitchen Table at The Mall Tavern
Food and Bevvys
Munching on some salty buttered wholemeal soda bread we scan the menu which seems like a fairly standard “typical pub grub gets given a shot in the arm” sort of affair. Popular choices include Cow Pie and Chicken Kiev and both look substantial enough to feed a whole cow, or the population of Kiev respectively. Starters include pork pies, deep-fried brie, soups and “heritage” (eyebrow raised) salads To begin though we opt for “Pierre’s-plethora-of-posh-potted-patés-and-pickles which arrives all tarted up in an assortment of quirky crockery. There’s a pea mouse and a chicken liver parfait – both work nicely with snappy little crispbreads. Assorted sweetly pickled and deliciously crunchy vegetables accompany long thick slices of home smoked salmon (yes we double checked it was actually home smoked). All of this was topped off quite unnecessarily by another portion of soda bread so dense it had it’s own gravitational pull.
Delicious food served at The Mall Tavern
While enough for three, two of us demolish it quite easily – foolishly ignoring the fact we’ve ordered pork chops and braised hare for main course. The hare arrives; gloriously colourful with fresh golden beetroot and big green meaty leaves. It’s been braised to death so falls apart like an England cricket team as you eat it. The Pork is presented similarly only flanked by Jerusalem artichokes, crackling and watercress puree. A nice idea but spoiled slightly by the meat being overcooked and therefore drier than a charcoal drawing of Hillary De Vey. Nothing a spot of sauce didn’t fix though.
We’ve eaten so much by the end of this that apple maps has mistaken us for land mass and given us contour lines. So obviously the next thing we do is order dessert. Apricot cheesecake is given the Jackson Pollock treatment and served almost like an Eton mess. A little biscuit here, a fresh apricot there, all arranged around rich cheesecake filling and sweet coulis -perfect for those who like every bite to be different. Half a Dozen dusty drops of salted caramel are too much to be eaten in one sitting but are too good to waste so shamefully I have to take half of them home.
To drink, the extensive wine list doesn’t repeat itself by listing five cabernet sauvignons that all taste the same. Having said that there are four Marlborough’s listed in the whites but as that happens to be my favourite I’ll let it slide. Prices range from 18 quid respectable house fodder to £300 for vintage claret made with fresh unicorn blood – possibly. We opt for a sensible £20 merlot and its perfectly acceptable. Non –Wine lovers can choose from a couple of real ales, a compact cocktail list or a not so compact spirits list including nearly 40 scotch whiskies.
No thank you I need to lie down.
Hungry? Cold? Miserable? Look no further. As the leaves begin to fall and the nights close in, The Mall Tavern is a perfect spot to warm up, eat up and cheer up.
Budget: Happily Affordable if you go for the £10 two-course Lunch. Splashing the cash otherwise.
Pre Designs: After work drinks, Cute and cozy, Sip fine wine, Family friendly.
Service: 5/5: Ask nicely and you might even get a tour of the kitchen.