It’s been donkey’s since we last had a bite at the Lord Palmerston: much as we love its lofty location and interior, and succession of rooms and ambiances, the odd problem in the kitchen kept us from returning for dinner.
But now, with impressively-tattooed new chef Beth at the helm (ex-Spurstowe Arms) the team are confident of a foodie renaissance. And, as regular readers will know, the Palmerston sponsored our Ich Bin column in October, so it was more than time to give the menu a whirl.
First thoughts as we stepped inside out of a Friday lunchtime downpour? We’d forgotten just how enticing a pub it is. The location is quite romantic too, perched on a hillside overlooking the Valley of Kentish, its leafy corner site just a ten minute stroll from Parliament Hill, and now-fashionable Highgate Road, home of the Southampton Arms, Chicken Shop, Bull & Last et al. And inside Emma, the deputy manager was busy lighting a log fire as we arrived, the perfect tonic for such a dark day beyond the windows.
The weekday offer is a good-value £7 lunch, chalked on a board above the mantelpiece. There are only ever a handful of specials, and an emphasis on provenance, which suited us fine. We elected to share three plates, rather than have a starter, and then chucked in a dessert on top that. We drank sparkling water – a rarity, admittedly – but there is a carefully curated selection of real ales and wines by the glass too. Maybe next time.
Warm mackerel with white bean cassoulet had a hint of spice to offset the rich meatiness of a favourite Kentishtowner oily fish. A smoked trout fish cake with soft fried egg and mustard sauce combined three very compatible bedfellows, but lacked just a hint of seasoning. Still, it looked a treat, and was – nearly – masterful.
Meanwhile, pork belly with spiced cabbage and black pudding mash was probably the most rounded dish, a real bargain at £7 too (you might not blink at it costing double that); however, if we were being picky, it was rather enthusiastically over-seasoned, even for our renowned seadog palates.
To finish, a tasty toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ginger ice cream, and damn fine expresso, although our waitress was unsure what the beans were.
Our verdict? With just a bit of tweaking here and there, it seems like things are back on track at the Palmerston, especially at these prices. And the daytime menu happily sits alongside similarly bargainous offerings at The Grafton, Oxford, and Lord Stanley. It’s a real winter pub too, so we’ll be swinging by soon to lounge by the fire – and try that more pricey evening menu. Meanwhile, we’d like to hear your feedback so leave those comments below.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms