I arrived late – punctuality isn’t my strong point – and the gods had punished me with driving rain and no umbrella, so I joined my friend sodden, flustered and keen to relax. At first, I wondered if she had deliberately chosen to join a 50th birthday celebration, but she assured me the 20cm gap between our tables was adequate. Within minutes, I was increasingly concerned that if the gentleman hovering at my left shoulder took a step backwards, he would be sat squarely in my lap. Then I spied a couple leaving in the corner, and after speaking to three members of staff – English wasn’t their strong point – we relocated to a calmer spot.
When the waitress was confused by my asking whether the house wine was dry, then shot us a look of panic when we asked for directions to the toilets, I became concerned about our chances of getting a good meal. However, the food was brilliant: presented cleanly, it wasn’t overcomplicated and each dish had a gastro-pub quality. We ordered starters of Serrano ham with olives, Manchego cheese and warm bread. If it wasn’t for the pints of ale going back and forth or the drizzle trickling down the window, we’d have felt positively continental. Then our plates were cleared, and we were brought back to reality by the waitress asking whether we’d like dessert. We replied that we might do, but we would prefer our main courses first if possible.
Mains arrived without further hitches. We opted for grilled chicken supreme with gnocchi, sun-blushed tomatoes and a herb cream sauce, and pork belly with potato cake, green beans, mushrooms and a red wine jus. Both dishes were excellent: the chicken was moist, and the gnocchi was neither too dense nor overbearing. The pork was crisp yet tender, and the jus was delightfully rich. Portion sizes weren’t huge, which thankfully left adequate room for dessert – or, rather, it did for me, and I spent the next five minutes explaining in some detail why we should share a baked chocolate mousse with almond biscotti and Baileys cream. Really, I’m surprised I needed more than the title.
Regardless, arms were twisted and we enjoyed the best course of the evening. As we began to make our way out, happily full, the bell rang for last orders and up came the lights. To be honest, though, they didn’t make the staff look any brighter: unlike the lights, they were far from switched on.
The Beehive Pub
126 Crawford Street, London, W1U 6BF
020 7486 8037; www.thebeehive-pub.co.uk
Written by Hannah Bolton