It wasn’t so long ago that the spot where The Havelock Tavern stands was merely a shell of burnt construction and rubble after a freak fire accident was caused by a member of staff (seemingly a previous member of staff now?).
The co-owner and head chef Jonny Haughton, revealed the source of the blaze as a fag butt thrown by a member of staff into a dustbin, shortly before he and his business partner were about to finalise the pub’s sale for some two million quid. You’d hunt down that fag-tossing tosspot and hang him/her, wouldn’t you? This was in 2005 and the gastro-pub has now been rebuilt to its former glory, and it’s business as usual for the Brook Green tavern.
Friends who frequent the Havelock tell me that the food is superb and the bar always busy. I arrived for lunch to find the odd scatter of wealthy retired folk mashing their food, and gossiping yummy-mummys with their husbands (you’d hope), that Brook Green archetype that spill over from the Fulham fringes; all floppy-hair and jumpers looped around their shoulders.
The menu changes daily – which is usually a good thing – and exercises seasonal ingredients – a good thing. This stops the kitchen becoming stale and would explain why locals enjoy coming back here to dine so often, while the mummys and housewives can finger through their salads while sipping G&T’s (or is it ciders these days?) and moan like South-West London Sex in the City girls.
Fresh bread is displayed on the bar and the warm, doughy waft consumes the room. Starters on my visit included some rather fancypant offerings from a pub: caldo verdi: chorizo, potato and curly kale soup, chargrilled mackerel fillet with chickpea, white wine, tomato and leak stew and some deep fried white bait with smoked paprika aioli and lemon. I however, was on one of those express lunches so charged forward to the mains with duck leg confit with celeriac puree, roast parsnips, sprouting broccoli and gravy (£12.50).
The duck was soft and juicy with a crispy skin (just how it should be). It was a considerable size too, placed centrally on to the celeriac puree, a little too runny and sharp, and with beautifully roasted parsnips and crunchy broccoli (perfect, as broccoli can sometimes be too watery and drab). The gravy was rich and complimented the duck well and for pub grub this was top draw stuff.
I had a quick skim of the wine list and all appears to be in order, but with a weekend trip to Germany approaching I instead opted for a cold pint of Erdinger Weissbräu, a beer I can’t remember tasting before, so it was always going to be a risk, but a happy chance and a fine beer. Malted wheat with a cloudy colouring (5.3%).
Steamed ginger pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream (£5) had the pleasure of my company for dessert. I’ve tackled thousands of ginger and toffee puddings, but what set this particular one apart from the flock was the chewy surprise of steamed ginger pieces within the sponge. Each piece presenting that hint of spice, soon cooled off by the vanilla ice cream and sugary, yet mellowing, sweet, toffee sauce.
Ending with a hit of espresso before departing, I can only report wonderful things from the Havelock lunch. I’m impressed with an ever-changing menu full of delights, if I could have somehow squeezed in the slow cooked belly of pork and Lofty’s chocolate cake with crème fraîche then I would have. I’m full of superlatives for the chef and let’s just hope a new smoking area is fenced off thirty-seven miles down the road.