Monday, June 30, 2008

The County Arms, Wandsworth

It was a weekend of scuppered plans.  We had fancied a trip to one of local favourites, Ditto, to round off a relaxing Sunday but despite checking the website, which says they shut at 10pm, upon arrival discovered that they now shut at 5 on a Sunday evening.

I was disappointed.  I had been looking forward to it all day.  Nevertheless, it was a balmy evening and a pleasant walk across Wandsworth Common brought us to The County Arms.

It is a large pub with a big garden which we intended to sit in but discovered that a private party being held in the conservatory was spilling outside, with Cher blaring from a music system.  Inside it was then.

You can eat in the bar or in the restaurant.  The bar tables were all taken at 8.30pm except for three at the back, in an area that feels distinctly like a hotel lobby.  We decided to eat in the restaurant and were the only ones, which surprised me as the menu was appealing and decor really lovely - a hotch potch of wooden chairs and tables and a huge open fire (obviously not lit at the end of June but a great centrepiece) with two squashy leather sofas next to it.  It was homely but not shabby.

The waitress came over, offered drinks and asked if we would like the air conditioning turning off, which we did as it was really quite chilly.  She told us it was extremely quiet for a Sunday, I think by way of apology for the large empty restaurant.  The menus were printed on cream paper, a little worse for wear by now - type fading and edges battered but we happily perused over a nice glass of rioja.

To begin, we shared a platter of rustic breads with olive oil, balsamic, roasted garlic and pesto.  It was a very generous portion for £4.50: about sixteen slices of bread, in four varieties (one focaccia was a little stale but the others delicious) with large pots of dips.  We were careful to only share about half, as we would have been absolutely stuffed if we'd eaten the lot.  There were still roasts on the menu but the particularly tempting pork was sold out and so my boyfriend went for fish and chips 'County style' and I selected the Ploughman's.

I was glad we had kept some bread back as the three slices of white loaf that came with mine were a little uninspiring.  The brie and cheddar were gorgeous though and served in two huge chunks.  A fresh salad provided a nice contrast, there was a decent sweet chutney and crunchy red apple but the celery was a sad, spindly little offering.  Two big pickled onions topped it off.
James's fish looked lovely atop a bed of what were more like wedges than chips with the skins still on.  A side of mushy peas was a nice surprise, pureed with, I think, mint added.
Despite appearances, the fish was apparently quite tasteless.

There were a couple more tables occupied by the time we left which provided a little more atmosphere than the streams of people trailing through from the conservatory to the toilets and back.

Reading this back it sounds like we didn't have a nice night, which we did, but I think if we eat there again we'll go on a different night when there will be more atmosphere, perhaps in the winter, and give a couple of different meals a go.

Two courses and a glass of wine: £22 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 6/10

Food: 7/10

SCORE: 28/40

The County Arms, 345 Trinity Road, London, SW18 3SH.  Tel: 020 88748532.

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