Sunday, March 23, 2014

Good Pub Grub: The De Beauvoir Arms

As I was enjoying my bavette steak topped with salsa verde and served with a side of dressed rocket salad and potatoes Lyonnaise on Friday, I took a sip of my wine and thought to myself, "How did pub food get so damn good?" When I first came to the UK 8 or 9 years ago, going to the pub meant ordering traditional, British comfort foods like chicken pies and bangers and mash - certainly none of the modern, almost experimental dishes that we get in our local pubs in London today. And while I know that the concept of "gastropubs" has been technically in existence since the early '90s, I swear that the food I've been eating at pubs on a Friday night is just getting better and better, every day.

We're lucky to live near a triangle of pubs on the Islington/Hackney border that surpass even the "gastro" mark and continually whip up mouthwatering dishes with original recipes that rival eating out at some of the nicest restaurants in our surrounding area. For example, the fish served at The Talbot (which impressed even my hard-to-impress parents) is bought fresh from Billingsgate Fish Market that day. John's Angus rib-eye steak on Friday was melt-in-the-mouth tender. The quality of ingredients used in these pubs is of the highest standard and the chefs cooking in the kitchens of these pubs - in my eyes - work with the same level of intensity as those who bark orders behind the doors of some of London's most popular or sought-after restaurants.

I never thought too much about it until my parents came to visit us last summer and we took them to two pubs for dinner on two separate occasions. They both ordered the fish option at The Talbot and something similar at The Hunter S., I think. And on both occasions, they were surprised by the quality of the food and how delicious it was. "Do all pubs serve this kind of food?" I remember my mom asking, as she tried a bite of my quinoa, pomegranate, and feta salad. Well, not all of them do, I remember thinking. But we're very lucky that the ones near us do.

Our local, The De Beauvoir Arms is no exception: walk in on any day of the night and you'll get a varied menu with a pretty wide range of options, inspired by Mediterranean flavors. Aside from the excellent rare bavette steak I had on Friday, another winter warmer that I loved recently was their roasted field mushrooms stuffed with thyme and lemon breadcrumbs on a canellini bean stew. Served piping hot, this was one of the most amazing plates of hearty goodness I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying on a cold not-quite-spring evening. They also do a mean slow roasted pork sandwich too.

Although I love to eat out (not that you couldn't tell ... ahem!), there's something so nice about not having to make an effort on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon: those moments when you're just feeling tired and worn out and want a proper, good meal, but don't want to dress up or go anywhere far. As an American, I never really "got" pub culture, if you know what I mean. But now I do, I think. There's something so simple and lovely about strolling to your local pub that's never more than a 10-minute walk away, plonking yourself down in a seat by the fireplace, ordering a drink at the bar, and having delicious food served to you in a relaxed, non-pretentious, effortless environment. There's also something incredibly nice about paying for your food and drink at the beginning of your meal. It means that you can stay for as long or as little as you'd like without feeling anxious or rushed.

Viva la pub grub.

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