Sister pub to the nearby (and much newer) Tufnell Park Tavern, the Lord Stanley sits tiled and handsome on the corner of Camden Park Road. Older readers might remember its roots in Caribbean cooking back in the late ’90s; and while gastronomically much has changed, Jay, the relaxed manager, still mooches about behind the bar and, when we popped by for lunch last week, was trying to get to grips with a day-old wine list.
The interior? Grand in size but, save for a lacquered bottle green ceiling, comfortingly worn, its robust wooden furniture bearing the dents and scratches of years of use.
It was a warm day, and the October sun provoked the idea of a last-gasp Provence; but instead we clinked on a Portuguese Azulejo: fruity with a touch of sparkle, at 9%, it was appropriately light for a midweek lunchtime glass.
On the panelled far wall, a chalked-up menu is sophisticated, allowing the well-paired ingredients to impress (we’ve raved about the place before).
We started with duck rillettes and brioche-like toast: perfectly creamy, with zesty dressed rocket leaves and sweet pickled grapes – but just a degree or two chilly. Meanwhile, a thick fish soup was rich and warming, a sunny hit of Marseille in NW1.
We shared a couple of mains. A beautifully cooked piece of grey mullet, soft on the inside with crispy skin, straddled roast fennel, capers and stalky cavolo nero. A mature combination, and punchy blend of aniseed and earthiness, it was on the tipping point of being too salty – perhaps the capers were to blame? Still, its flavours were lifted by the crisp white.
Next up? Our favourite dish of the lunch: seasoned creamy parsnip mash, laced with the sweetness of caramelised roast chicory, and accentuated by a dash of honey, crumbled walnuts and chilli. This really was delicious, hearty vegetarian fare.
We skipped dessert and plumped for a rich double espresso, pondering why there has always been something very likeable about this boozer. No hype or bravado, just reliably interesting homely food to return for.
And even better, no flouncy front of house staff either, just genuine Jay and smiley chef Matthew. It’s the kind of joint that makes you want to sit around all afternoon with the paper – and another glass of Portuguese.