We love the Prince Regent, we really do. Over the years we’ve basked on its terrace, lapped up impressive evening meals in the dining room, and generally enjoyed its laidback vibe. So why was a recent Sunday lunch, well, somewhat disappointing?
We’ll get onto that in a moment. But first, some good things. Service at this Herne Hill institution is efficient and friendly: despite the restaurant area being fully booked on our most recent visit, we easily moved tables to one more suited to the six-month old baby in tow. The menu is as appealing as ever. And the interior is wonderful: a true Victorian watering hole, all wooden floors, natural light and big windows.
Oh, and while we’re singing praises, our shared starter, too, was fine: a chunky mackerel pate, perfect for four of us to dive into, tearing home-made bread, slathering with butter, surveyed the whole time by my keen-eyed Jack Russell.
But the first inkling of disappointment was that the house wine wasn’t so good. Packed with oaky-blackcurrant-and-vanilla flavours, we managed to suffer it (just), but then ordered a second bottle of something southern French. I can’t remember its precise name; after all, this wasn’t meant to be a review – we were meeting friends, having a leisurely afternoon on a Sunday, for goodness’ sake.
But it was the mains that really blew it. I didn’t fancy the full Sunday lunch, so ordered a special of Spanish chicken with peppers, onions and rice. And yet the thigh and leg meat were not especially succulent, the melange of vegetables studenty rather than balanced with full-bodied flavour.
Even this rather paled in comparison to the roasts: sliced pork was dry, almost uniquely without taste, and the beef so tough that our friend was struggling to cut through it. “Like school dinners,” was his diplomatic verdict. On the plus side, both potatoes and broccoli were fine, and the red cabbage was, in fact, delicious.
Glancing round the room it seemed as if we were either unlucky or no-one else had noticed; and the unseasonally warm day meant the mood everywhere was buoyant. In fact, as the sky cleared, and the sun shone harder and brighter than before, the whole pub seemed to move outside, collectively downing pints or on that sun-trap terrace facing.
So we had a nice day. And we would eat there unfailingly again on a week night. But Sunday lunch? Nope.
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