Thursday, 2 June 2011

Restaurant Review: The Stonhouse

Here's my review of The Stonhouse, part of the Renaissance Pubs group, written for my South London Press column.

The Stonhouse has held pride of place on a tucked away Clapham backstreet since 2006. Old boozer The Windsor Arms was bought by locals Mark Reynolds, Tom Peake and Nick Fox and transformed into the trendy venue that The Stonhouse now is. It occupies a space somewhere between gastropub and restaurant, not at all dissimilar to The Avalon, The Bolingbroke and The Abbeville establishments nearby which are owned by the same entrepreneurial trio.

Inside, The Stonhouse is light and bright, but just a bit cosy, too. During the summer, doors open into a picturesque walled beer garden, but there’s a fireplace ready to take centre-stage again come winter.

Though the food on offer at The Stonhouse is generally of the pubby variety, the menu’s sheer length is much more restaurant-like. There are no fewer than ten starters. These include an antipasti platter (£7), a spit-roast chicken salad (£7.50) and a foie gras terrine (£7.25). Manuka smoked salmon pate (£6) is well flavoured and generous on the fish, whilst chicken livers and wild mushrooms on toast (£5.50) are perfectly cooked and pack a good punch. Unfortunately, both dishes are let down by the toast. The menu’s description of granary is something of an exaggeration and it’s pretty clear it’s been bought ready-sliced. The dishes are juicy enough to impart a little flavour, but still such poor bread is a disappointment.

Things get back on form with the main courses, of which there at least twenty-four to choose from. Smoked haddock (£11.50) comes with buttery mash, a runny poached egg and a creamy mustard sauce. A side of really garlicky sautéed spinach (£3) completes a simple but highly satisfying dish. Meanwhile, a rump steak (£11.50) is probably the simplest thing on the menu, but near-perfect cooking makes it a complete triumph. It comes with good, crunchy chips and dipping sauces. Whilst the hollandaise is enjoyable, what is supposedly mayonnaise is ambiguous, bright white and more than a tad worrying. Perhaps it was bought with the bread.

Onto desserts, and again a hefty list awaits. A chocolate brownie (£5) is served piping hot, which is unusual, but has the perfect combination of being rich without sickly. Blackberry & apple crumble is similarly not too sweet, and comes with a good fruit to topping ratio. Though it could easily have gone the way of the bread and the mayonnaise, the accompanying custard is, thankfully, a high point, with the fresh vanilla flavour ensuring that the meal ends on a sweet note.

A restaurant quality menu is washed down with a pub quality drinks selection. Ciders, beers and ales (including a number of local options) are in plentiful supply, and there’s an impressive list of wines by the glass (average £5 for a large, 250ml glass) plus a good few cocktails, which seem to be popular with the locals.

The Stonhouse is busy and deserves to be. The staff are friendly and attentive, the cooking is spot on, and the prices are reasonable. Just steer clear of the bread and the mayonnaise...

The Stonhouse, 165 Stonhouse Street, SW4 6BJ. 

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