Gastropubs

By Campion, Charles | The Evening Standard (London, England), May 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Gastropubs


Campion, Charles, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: CHARLES CAMPION

The Salt House, NW8

The Salt House was once an elegant Victorian street corner pub... but viewed from the outside things look rather black. The exterior is painted jet-black which means that it looks like an enormous stealth bomber squatting in St John's Wood.

Inside things are also pretty Gothic, with black tablecloths and the odd splash of silver or sullen purple, but the decor resembles nothing so much as the old Black Magic chocolate box. Goths may warm to the black tablecloths, but it doesn't really chime with the food - unless you count the cuttlefish risotto 'in nero'.

The Salt House is now owned by the people who run the Salusbury in Queen's Park - on taking it over they shut it down for a refurb. Enrico Sartori has taken over the kitchens, and it recently reopened with a new menu.

The food is Italian. Starters range from artichoke and broad bean soup to an asparagus risotto by way of mozzarella and Parmesan fritters with chilli jam. The latter are like fishcakes without fish - light inside, crisp outside with an agreeable musty belt of Parmesan.

All pasta is home-made, and broad noodles made with basil are served with little clams. Or pappardelle may be teamed with rabbit and porcini. Then there are seven pukka main courses ranging from eggs Benedict with prosciutto, to cartoccio of turbot with spinach and candied citrus peel. If the latter sounds a bit like an Italian restaurant dish, then that is because it is - [pounds sterling]18 mains do not sit easily in gastropub territory.

Order the Salt House sausage sandwich with roast tomatoes and Colman's, and what you get is a kind of superstar Brit bruschetta. Take a thick slice of toasted bread, spread it with caramelised fried onions, add a good meaty sausage, decorate with halved, roast plum tomatoes, then balance another thick slice of toast on top and add a side serving of English mustard.

Puds range from poached pear with saffron to strawberries with warm zabaglione.

The wine list is lengthy, eclectic and not viciously expensive. Service is slick but unfussy, and the waitresses all seem to wear black. …

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