The Geronimo Inns chain (part of Young’s) recently spruced up this Dartmouth Hill fixture, with pre-publicity offering a bewildering array of attractions, from cinema room to barber, in-pub deli to bread-making classes. First impressions banish any misgivings: this is still a very likeable pub, busy but well marshalled by smiley, sharp-witted staff. There’s a good range of ales (an excellently hoppy Redemption Big Chief the pick), a solid wine list and decor that combines modern retro whimsy (top-hat Victorians and fighter planes, deer skull, Union Jack) with traditional pub comfort (chandeliers, fireplaces).
From the blackboard menu, ‘smoked potato terrine, poached duck egg’ was a real hit: a peppery millefeuille of potato with perfectly runny egg and watercress – direct, handsomely presented and full of flavour. Gnocchi with roast squash and lemon butter was also good, if light on the chilli. After that, though, things went astray: fridge-cold beetroot with goat’s curd and watercress was complicated by an over-sweet walnut praline; warm pigeon breast salad suffered from too few of the ‘bitter leaves’ and flavourless crackling. Still, the events show a pub focused on returning to the heart of its community – and when the sun shines, the beer garden will help too.