When pubs fall on hard times in less affluent areas of the city, the subsequent changes of ownership rarely result in anything that instils civic pride. This classically proportioned Victorian corner site was originally a local known as the Earl of Warwick; like a disgraced peer it was stripped of its title, becoming the Golborne Grove, which then shut too. But it’s now reopened again as the Earl of Portobello (laird of a fictitious fiefdom).
The huge windows make the place feel open and bright, and we should be grateful this pub is still extant and serving booze – but more imaginative design would be welcome. It’s had the usual gastropub makeover – fancy lightshades, a wall of patterned wallpaper, a chandelier, a few leather couches. Hang on, where’s the ironic taxidermy? Phew, there it is, above the bare-brick fireplace.
Queen Victoria has been blown up and rudely mounted. It’s clearly the same depiction of the old dear found on the Bombay Sapphire bottle, so perhaps the reason she’s frowning so hard is that our gin and tonic came, for no apparent reason, with crushed rather than cubed ice.
Gastropubs should have great beer, but there was only the unremarkable Spitfire on offer beside a few lagers. The spirit shelves are well stocked, though, and there’s a big section of party cocktails.
Food is available, but the fairly standard pub fare (burger, lamb chops, bangers and mash) was let down by a heavy hand in the kitchen.
There are quiz and film nights for variation, but on our visit the entertainment was provided by a Jackie Wright lookalike at the bar with a little dog sat permanently across his shoulders. Every time he raised his pint, his animate stole tried to steal a slurp.