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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Devonshire Arms: Wobbly But Nice

126 Devonshire Road, W4 2JJ
tel: +44 (0)20 8742 2302

About an hour and a half into my first visit to Chiswick's newest gastropub, I asked if I could speak to the manager. A nice chap called Joe promptly came over and pulled up a chair. "Joe" I said, "I so want to love this pub. We live just down the road and I was so happy to hear you took over from that ghastly Gordon Ramsay venture that came before you." He looked at me with genuine concern as I continued. "I know you've just opened so I've gotta grant you some slack, but the service has been pretty disastrous and the main you just put down in front of my friend is a joke." Joe bowed his head and said, "I know, today has been total chaos. We're completely overrun. I am so, so sorry. Let me talk to the chef and get back to you." So here's what happened.
Our table for four was right in the middle of the main room of the pub. With wood floors and high ceilings, it's a lovely space and has all the trademarks of a gastropub. Unfortunately on the the Sunday we visited, we immediately felt like we'd been dropped into the middle of a creche. A gaggle of posh children were running wild, their parents obliviously downing bottles of rose. Of course, that's not the pub's fault, but it made it nearly impossible to have any kind of conversation without our chairs being bumped by a screeching kid with a helium balloon in tow every two minutes. We tried our best not to stick out our legs and trip the children for fun and ordered a half pint of prawns with marie rose sauce (£6.50) to start. The prawns were delicious but TINY. And I'm afraid I compare every pint of prawns with the EXCELLENT ones they have down the road at the excellent Anglesea Arms in Ravenscourt Park. There - they are huge, delicious and come with the most incredible garlic aioli. These ones just don't compare I'm afraid.
Half an hour after we finished our starter, no one had come to clear away the dishes. Our wine glasses were empty. Our bellies were growling. One of the other-people's-children started howling. I flagged down our waitress and asked if she would mind clearing the table and getting us some more drinks. She fumbled around for her notepad furiously and I said we'd all just have the same as we'd first ordered. She looked perplexed. "What did you order?" she asked. I told her and she wrote it down and then walked away without clearing any of the empties. Fifteen minutes later she returned with the wine. And then she did something curious. Even though we hadn't touched our cutlery with the prawns starter, she started taking it away and replacing it with brand new stuff. My friend said, "oh don't worry about that, we didn't use these." She said it was her job to change it anyhow. So she did. But by now we had about ten empty wine glasses on our table. She walked away without clearing any of them. It was almost comical. When the mains finally did arrive (they took an hour) she had no choice but to put the plates down on another table to clear the collection of wine glass carnage away. Friend number one dug into her slow roasted pork belly with roast potatoes, borlotti beans and cherry tomatoes (£12.50) and sighed. "This was actually worth the wait," she said purring with pleasure.
I'm afraid patience isn't one of my strong suits, so I wasn't prepared to be as forgiving. But when I tasted my grilled bavette with peppercorn sauce, chips and roasted bulb of garlic (£14.50) I too lost my edge. It was red, rare, chewy and melted in my mouth. The peppercorn sauce was deliciously rich and tasted just as good on the chips as poured over the meat. I loved the final touch of the roasted garlic which was soft, sweet and succulent. My husband had the same and gave it his approval by mopping up every bit of sauce with his last remaining chip.
Where the mains ventured off course was with friend number two's order of girolle & samphire risotto (£13.75). The portion size truly was a joke. It came in a layer so thin that there was surely only three small spoonfuls worth. It was hardly even starter size let alone a main course. Friend number one simply said, "they're taking the piss." And so that's when Joe was hailed. With his gracious apology, the dish was left at the table and 30 minutes later a new, huge portion arrived. Friend two admitted that it was delicious. It was just a shame she had to eat it on her own as the rest of us had finished ages ago. After her plate was finally cleared, Joe came over and said he'd had a word with a chef and agreed that the portion size was unacceptable. So was the wait. As compensation, he offered to take the price of ALL the mains off our bill. We accepted. And after he left the table we all agreed how much we liked him. Not just because our bill came to £30 for four but because it was the right thing to do. While my friends celebrated the deal with coffee, I ordered the oddest sounding dessert on the menu.
Hendricks gin and tonic jelly with blueberry compote and cream (£6.00). Man alive it was boozy. But great fun. And though the service was just as wobbly as the pudding, I feel compelled to return. The Devonshire Arms is experiencing some growing pains, but maybe that's to be expected. As we left, Joe apologised again and said he sincerely hoped he'd see us soon. Because of his gracious gesture and the undeniably good food - he will. 

6 comments:

  1. The summer before I went to uni I worked in a pub in South West London which had exactly the same problem - completely overrun with kids on Sundays, most of them spilling banana skins, not touching their food, falling out of high chairs and generally causing havoc. But once you looked past that the food was seriously delicious and definitely not to write off. The lesson I learnt? Maybe go in the week or evening to avoid the crazy crowds!

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  2. The slow-roasted pork belly looks just terriffic! I loved reading about your friends!
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  3. Hello! I recently just started a youtube Korean food channel, EasyKoreanFood, where you can learn how to make fast & easy Korean food! It would mean the world to me if you could check it out because I'm just starting out! Thanks!

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  4. Oh that waitress goofed up everything! But relieved to know that the food was good. We sometimes have bad experiences in restaurants, but everything calms down with "scrumptious food" I guess.

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  5. I'm glad the manager did the right thing. But boy, that's such a long wait for a meal. hehe...I guess the server just need more training . On a lighter note, the food looks wonderful. Gin and tonic jelly sounds wonderful. One of my favorite jelly was made with processo...so, I'm sure this taste wonderful too.

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  6. the last picture - so cool! i'm going to attempt something that looks like that! thanks for the inspiration

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