You don’t need me telling you that January is the worst month of the year; it's already a well known fact. There’s next to nothing to do, and you have to deal with the heartache of a battered bank balance after Crimbo. Determined to brush away my blues, I ventured to The Mayflower, the oldest pub along the Thames, for a pick me up. Before visiting, I had two questions on my mind. Number one? Could this historic boozer deliver a cracking evening, and more importantly, did dinner come served with the correct atmosphere for a smooth weekend date? Stay tuned...
If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s a dining destination with some history. The Mayflower was built in 1550 and sits along the banks of the Thames. Originally operating under the name ‘The Shippe’, its current name pays homage to the Pilgrim Fathers who set sail from behind the pub in search of the New World. Although I ventured out back to the decked jetty, where this historic journey began, it’s the upstairs restaurant area that is the venue's crowning jewel.
Before I start rabbiting on about how fantastic it is, I want to give a dutiful nod to the first floor bar. It has tonnes of personality with cosy corners, hanging lanterns and ship paraphernalia dotted about at every empty-looking space; I’m talking exotic parrots, antique silver mugs and detailed ship ornaments. Connecting the dots between its atmosphere and stunning character, I’d have no qualms in saying it’s the best London boozer I’ve been in (and that’s without taking the intimate space upstairs into consideration). Moving onto the restaurant - you’ll find it tucked away, up worn set of stairs. The ambience of the room is gelled together by the large latticed window that overlooks the Thames, old oak beams, rickety chairs and the sea of candlelit mahogany tables. All in all, it’s a super romantic spot. Never mind your date, this place and its old world charm will make you buckle at your knees.
The Food and Drink
The Mayflower’s menu was given a bit of a revamp before our visit which meant the decision making process was that little bit longer. The menu was spruced up with hearty and warming dishes, from Atlantic scallops and black pudding starters to seasonal sausages and mash mains.
After much hemming and hawing, I and my date got ourselves ready for steamed fresh mussels £7.50/£15 and the honey and rosemary baked camembert £6.95. My cheese starter came out piping hot, accompanied by four thick, toasted slices of fresh bread. Only mustering the courage to finish half of my dish (it was huge and I was saving myself for my main) the thick cheese poured onto my plate like lava and carried a sweet finish. Having originally went with the chicken and tarragon pie, I changed my mind last minute for the pan fried sea bass fillet £15.95. It was a more than generous portion and came presented on a bed of crushed baby potatoes. The sea bass fillet was flaky, and the skin not too crispy. Our main did not come served with any vegetables; being a 5-a-day gal, I ordered a portion for the table. Costing £3.75, I was expecting a bit more variety - the mix mainly consisted of carrots and the odd green bean, but I'm not complaining - they done the job.
Talking drinks, we were unsure of what wine best to accompany our meal, which is where The Mayflower’s excellent service comes into play. Our waiter effortlessly recommended a great wine and was attentive throughout our entire meal. Swapping dessert for Woodford Reserve on the rocks, we left our table merry and comfortably full.
Arriving at 5pm, The Mayflower’s atmosphere kicked our evening off to a roaring start. The first floor bar was packed out with an eclectic crowd; a line of punters stood at the bar admiring their pints of ale, young professionals made use of their weekend freedom with rounds of G&Ts and groups of friends were taking turns to sailing to the bar for shots. I found that upstairs nurtured a more relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere. Having said that, it was still extremely easy going; during our sitting, there was a celebratory dinner going on and the birthday boy in question acted like a pirate for 75% of his meal. Yup. A pirate.
Cocktail joints are plenty in London and trust me when I say, I’ve been to my share of ‘em. But atmospheric pubs steeped in history are not, which is why The Mayflower is such a golden gem. Its hundreds of years of experience has resulted in a well run establishment with delicious food and good times at the forefront of its agenda. So, whether you come here for a nerve-wracking first date or some breezy drinks on the jetty, just like the Pilgram Father’s, you’re destined to discover something unforgettable.