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|Address:||48 Newman Street, London W1T 1QD|
|Tel:||020 3667 1445|
|Price: £41.00||Wine: £14.00||Champagne: £58.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-3.30pm 6-10.30pm Sun 10.30am-5.30pm|
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Is the gastropub dead? Save for the likes of Wetherspoons whose meals turn up in a Brake’s lorry, it’s now reasonable to assume that pub grub will be edible; even unassuming neighbourhood boozers have caught up with triple-cooked chips and pints of prawns. The gastro name is no longer needed, surely: today’s eating establishments are either pubs or restaurants. But The Newman Street Tavern seems determined to buck this trend: it calls itself a pub, the decor is that of a pub, it serves some pub snacks, but it’s unmistakeably a restaurant. There’s nowhere to park yourself with a drink, a paper and a bowl of peanuts; the place is crawling with attentive staff kitted out in smart uniforms; and a proper plate of food could easily set you back £25 including a (requisite) side.
The menu is a pleasant surprise, populated with British ingredients you’ve never heard of. Some of it reads like the roll call in a 19th century bordello: ‘scrumpet’, ‘pouting’ and ‘laver’ all feature. Throughout the menu, however, is the tiresome affectation, beloved of chefs and Tesco’s Finest copywriters alike, of specifying ingredients’ provenance in minute detail – the most egregious example being ‘Ayrshire custard tart’.
Service at our lunch was comically inept, with neither kitchen nor waiters apparently able to identify their own food, for example, but this could be forgiven as it’s the first week of opening – and they quietly comped one of the mains as a result.
The aforementioned scrumpets turned out to be meaty bits of deep fried pork with sauce gribiche, and while pleasant, they lacked much pork flavour. ‘Beer sticks’ were simply long sections of thin, spicy sausage – at a fiver a pair. Beetroot and liquorice salad was good enough, save for the fact that there was no taste of liquorice at all, and the side of mushrooms came with a tarragon cream that wasn’t creamy. A huge slice of eggy, wobbly custard tart had been parked next to a slick of raspberry coulis that was unnecessary. The rest of the food – mussel soup, loin of pork, fish & shellfish broth – was all perfectly competent without wow factor.
Having said all this, in time, there’s no reason to think the NST couldn’t become a decent, proudly British restaurant in an area (call it Noho or Fitrovia) that up til now has been resolutely Mediterranean in its food offerings.