Our Tanya, confirmed gastropub skeptic, Mitchell and Butlers veteran and notoriously hard to please food person, heads down (or should that be up…?) to Notting Hill. She is in search of dinner and Picpoul de Pinet at The Champion…
British Pub Grub
An eclectic crowd of locals, wealthy and/or business types, plus lost tourists needing a British style ‘rejuvenation’. Considering property prices and the proximity of nearby tourist traps, this is not bad pricing for the area.
In A Word:
Although already familiar with this brand of Mitchell and Butler pubs, not necessarily for the food but because one is my local, I didn’t have high hopes for the food. But not wanting to tar all franchises with the same brush, I decided to bite the culinary bullet, so to speak, and give the usually unspectacular food a go. And so the only question is did the champion surpass my expectations? The proof is in the pudding, but did we make it to pudding?
A typical neighbourhood pub/bar atmosphere with a mix of locals, dotted with a few dogs amongst a city type crowd and the odd tourist, happy to absorb the ‘British’ atmosphere. A far cry from the traditional British pubs of yore, but an evolution into what the kids nowadays are calling ‘gastropubs’.
I don’t really know what it is to be British anymore, without seeming like a caricature of drinking tea and downing pints, but the menu I think is meant to reflect this, with classics such as ‘fish and chips’ and ‘sausage and mash,’ alongside traditional English ales select craft beers, Camden pale ale being a personal favourite of mine. Oh, and an extensive selection of Belgian beers.
We started with an assortment of ‘burnt southern fried ribs’, rather than the Korean-Style Ribs we were promised, and Prawns and Chorizo on Sourdough toast. Both dishes appeared to have an underlying coat of grease, that left a delectable film on the lips and we were not afforded napkins to soak it up, being a slight oversight by the waiting staff.
And what can I say for Prawns and Chorizo on Sourdough toast, that hasn’t already been said (apart from the aforementioned layer of grease) with some parts dry and others too oily due to an overzealous sprinkling of olive oil on some parts of the sourdough toast, however it was a lot easier to digest than the ribs and as for the ribs, my re-worked title says it all.
All in all, a pretty unspectacular start made a lot more pleasing, washed down with a rather nice and affordable glass of picpoul and Jack didn’t mind the fairly strong Belgian beer either.
Ding Ding, Round 2: The Mains
So going with the typically British theme, Jack ordered the 28 Day-Aged Rib Eye Steak, Sweet Potato fries, Yorkshire pudding with a horseradish butter sauce and being slightly rebellious I ordered the Duck Confit and Mash, ‘when in Rome an’ all,’ And in typical pub fashion, the portions were generous and surprisingly good, especially after a bit of a rocky start.
The duck was moist and the steak was of the melt in the mouth variety required of a medium rare. However my veggies fell flat, appearing lifeless and sad as they wilted over my plate. I felt they had been nuked in the microwave or reheated to nth degree, and as for the mash…well you could probably cement bricks with it. Think smash rather than mash.
Jack wasn’t too impressed with his accompaniments either and a bit miffed as to why there wasn’t any gravy with his yorkshire pudding – another oversight perhaps, to make things a lot drier; cracker challenge anyone? Luckily, there was enough jus on my plate for everyone and Jack happily mopped it up with his dry, dry pudding (supposedly this worked qiute well).
Round 3: Dessert
So after a rather eventful two courses, we almost felt defeated by the generous portions, but for the sake of ‘you lot’ we ‘decided’ (i.e I forced Jack) to indulge in just one more course, literally. We shared it; two spoons, one plate.
We both agreed on the Warm Chocolate Fudge Brownie with a scoop of Hazelnut ice cream, which sounded a dream on paper and was in reality. The chocolate fudge brownie was warm and moist and was complimented beautifully by the distinctively hazel-nutty ice cream, an absolute winning combination.
Jack was slightly sad he didn’t order his own; too bad Jack – you had your chance.
In essence, there are many pubs/establishments jumping on the gastropub bandwagon but not always getting the formula right. The Champion is an example of this with its very hit and miss menu, but when it hits, it really hits. As for its drinks, there is a wide range of alcoholic beverages to see you right and when you need something to soak up excess amount of booze, or strong Belgian beers in this case, I’m sure one of there hearty meals should sort you out.
All in all, nothing particularly special here, but if it’s a British pub you’re looking for (and after a ‘patriotic stroll’ around Hyde Park you just might be…), then this horse themed establishment could be for you…
1 Wellington Terrace, London W2 4LW
020 7792 4527