Sunday, 8 May 2016
REVIEW: The Ship Tavern, Holborn, London
I love a good friend-date. Wining, dining, wining again… with no pressure to look your best or even be your best. Just you and one of your besties, eating excellent food and drinking excellent drinks and having excellent chat.
It's always been one of my favourite things about blogging, actually. I've been doing this a long time now, and I've had some wonderful opportunities over the years, and so it's really special when I can share those opportunities with the people I love. And as Matt gets more than his share of free dinners and hotel breaks, I make an effort now to combine my food reviews with a good friend-date. So, step forward The Ship Tavern in Holborn and my BFF Amy (I know, I miss her blog too).
When we sat down in The Ship, Amy's first comment was 'This place is NIIIICE!' and it really is. Maybe even too nice for the likes of me, who rocked up in my scruffy Converse from Spartoo. Granted, our friend-dates usually take place in chain pubs of the beer-and-a-burger persuasion, but that comparison aside, The Ship really is lovely. The dining room is upstairs; dimly lit, comfortable, cosy and romantic. Even though there were some big groups in there at the same time as us, it wasn't intrusive or distracting (although we were pretty absorbed in the aforementioned excellent chat).
The menu promises British culinary classics and honest home cooked food (plus quaffable ales and a huge gin selection), but I feel it's being rather humble – I'd describe it as a gastro pub, with excellent choices cooked to perfection. We settled down with a lovely bottle of red wine and dug in.
I started with the mushrooms – wild mushrooms cooked in brandy, parsley and garlic on a toasted brioche, while Amy had the crab - soft shell crab fritter with crab salad and caviar. Fancy.
God, my mushrooms were delicious. If you love mushrooms – and I really love mushrooms – then you know that they can be lost in a dish, or they can be treated like the hero. This treated them like the hero, their flavour boosted by garlic and cream, all absorbed into a brioche. It was bursting with flavour.
Amy's crab was beautifully presented, and she said it was fantastic. The anti-seafood club (me) didn't try any, but it sure looks appetising, doesn't it?
For a main, I was extremely torn between Beef Wellington with truffle mash (yummm) or the trio of lamb, but ultimately the lamb had to win – how could I resist it cooked three ways? I did not regret my choice. Braised lamb shoulder, lamb fillet and crispy belly, served with mashed potato and a red wine jus… it was incredible. The different cooking styles really bought out the flavour, and although it was a mighty plateful, it wasn't remotely hard to finish it all. I will be campaigning for plate-licking to become part of polite society.
Amy had the Tavern steak burger, with cheddar, bacon and onion jam, which was simply spectacular. Huge, meaty and well stuffed – everything a burger should be. We also shared a side of honey glazed carrots, because I'm a bit obsessed with them (and these sweet, buttery carrots did not disappoint). If you don't think you like carrots, order these next time you see them on a menu. You may be converted.
The Tavern have the kind of Mains menu that I struggle with though, because it's impossible to choose. I would have happily eaten almost anything on there, and am definitely going back soon to try a few more options. Main courses vary from £13 - 20, so although it's not the cheapest place out there, the portions are huge and the food is all cooked to perfection. It would be the perfect location for a big family meal – or a cosy feast after a cold day exploring London.
For dessert we 'shared' the warm chocolate brownie. By which I mean Amy had a bite and I polished off the rest. It was an excellent brownie – dense and chocolatey – and my only criticism is that I struggled to finish it because I was so full from the rest of my food! (Not really a criticism, that)
I highly recommend The Ship. The service was excellent, the food was even better and there's so much more on the menu that I need to try. So if you're planning a friend-date or just a normal romantic-date (boooring) then pop this place on your list.
The Ship Tavern is at 12 Gate Street, Holborn, London WC2A 3HP. The restaurant paid for our bill in exchange for this honest review.
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