Posted on Friday, 24th September 2010
Note: This restaurant has now been acquired by Faucet Inn Pub Group.
When Gordon Ramsay took over the freehold of The Warrington and launched a gastropub there in February 2008, I lamented the lost of Ben’s Thai Restaurant. Ben’s Thai was situated on the first floor, above the pub (which is where the gastropub is now), and although it was far from perfect, it had personality. Its off-the-wall décor fit in with the quirky charm of the pub below – a lavishly decorated outfit with art nouveau stained glass windows, carved wood works and a marble topped mahogany bar. For added character, it was rumoured that the building was once used as a brothel.
But under Gordon Ramsay, the gastropub, aptly named The Warrington, became cool, stark and a little austere. When I first went there for dinner soon after its opening, it was hard to reconcile the sleek, new dining area with the pub below that was bursting with old world charm. Other than this oddity, I remembered the food being pretty decent.
Two and a half years on, and the gastropub’s look has softened. The décor is no longer as cold as I remembered. The lighting has dimmed for a softer ambience and there are more pictures gracing the walls for a homelier feel. I’m still not convinced the décor is in keeping with the style of the building, but it’s a vast improvement on what it was before. There’s also a new chef at the helm, Chris Arkadieff, who joined The Warrington three months ago from another Gordon Ramsay gastropub, the now defunct Devonshire in Chiswick. My understanding is that the revamped décor and the new chef are part of plans by The Warrington to reposition its gastropub standing. This visit, as a guest of The Warrington, marked the start of the ‘British Food Fortnight’ which began on 20 September and runs until 3 October.
To start, crispy fried quail (£9.50) was deliciously moist. The super-crunchiness of the bread crumbs worked a treat – I lapped this up with fervour – and the sweetness of the accompanying white peaches complimented the bird nicely. The rocket salad which formed the base of this dish was nicely dressed and seasoned, although I would have liked, for example, a little sauce such as a balsamic reduction to bring the whole plate together.
A pleasant tasting honey roasted butternut squash and sage soup (£6) was creamy and cooked to a nice thick consistency. The gentle hint of sage worked well with the sweetness of the squash, but a more concentrated squash flavour would have produced a tastier result.
Both our mains were generously sized. A large pork chop, which we selected from the very reasonably priced set menu (2 courses for £18, 3 courses for £22 *) was perfectly cooked and moist. It was accompanied by a decadent olive oil mash, caramelised sweet onions which married beautifully with the pork, and some wilted spinach which was unpleasantly, a little gritty. To round this off was a lovely red wine jus made with brown chicken stock. Apart from the spinach, this was a quality dish and very good value when taken as part of the set menu.
A second main of a large dry-aged sirloin on the bone (£25) was very flavoursome, although I found it a little cumbersome to navigate around the little bits of gristle and fat that were understandably around the meat. The section nearest to the bone was cooked rare rather than the requested medium rare, but it was so fantastically tasty that I didn’t mind the under doneness. It was garnished with some unctuous, to-die for roasted bone marrow and again finished with some tasty red wine and brown chicken jus. However, a garnish of roasted garlic was undercooked and needed more oven time for a sweeter caramelised effect. The chips were tasty but were not crispy.
A sourdough and granary bread selection was bland and pretty disappointing.
A berry panna cotta (£6) with fruit compote was nice and wobbly, but a little grainy in texture. It was accompanied by a light and airy shortbread biscuit.
Fresh, sweet strawberries (surprising for this time of year) made up the base of a substantial portion of Eton Mess (£6). A drizzling of zingy passion fruit rounded off the luscious cream and meringue mix.
The menu focuses on good ingredients cooked well and with little fuss to produce satisfying and dependable gastropub fare. Portions are generous, and the pricing is reasonable. It’s not haute cuisine – there’s nothing fancy here – but what you can be assured of is robust, hearty cooking.
We were treated to very attentive service, although as a guest of The Warrington, I will not be rating it for the purposes of this write-up.
* The set menu is available between the following times during British Food Fortnight which runs until 3 October:
Monday to Thursday 6pm – 10pm
Friday to Saturday 12-3 and 6pm – 7pm
Sunday 6pm – 9pm