Thursday, 1 March 2012

Restaurant Review: Ravensbourne Arms

I've reviewed a fair few Antic pubs for my South London Press column before, and they're reliably good if not hugely exciting. The Ravensbourne Arms has something a bit special, though. Worth heading to Lewisham, even...

New pub openings get a hard time sometimes, especially if the word ‘gastropub’ comes into play. But the response to the transformation of old boozer The Coach & Horses into this smarter, food-led pub has been overwhelmingly positive. Residents and local bloggers alike can be heard singing its praises, grateful of a much needed safe, decent pub in a largely bereft area of Lewisham.

Ravensbourne Arms is the latest opening from the Antic group, a growing collection of pubs around south east London which are individual in style but reliable in standard. Previous successes in the area include Brockley’s Jam Circus and The Royal Albert in New Cross, and anyone familiar with these venues will quickly spot the resemblance.

Shabby, reclaimed furniture, wooden floor and an abundance of nic-nacs has become a calling card for the pub group, and pretty much sums up the styling here, too. There’s a large bar area for drinkers and a rotating selection of ales, whilst the menu hovers somewhere between homely comfort food and ever-so-slightly poshed up pub grub. 

 A starter of gnocchi with winter greens, pesto and Parmesan (£5) is generous in size and big on flavour, with the rich garlicky pesto packing a satisfying punch. Even more impressively, the gnocchi have been gently pan-fried so as to crisp up on the outside, which adds some textural excitement and shows an attention to detail not expected even in a food-led pub such as this.

A main of slow roast lamb shank (£10)  doesn’t let the side down, the tender meat putting up no resistance to being pulled from the bone, smeared in a syrupy, herby gravy and ceremoniously dunked into the accompanying buttery mash.

A spiced apple crumble (£4)  available with either ice cream or custard rounds things off just as faultlessly, arriving in a large ramekin that will please the greediest of pudding fans, with chunky pieces of just-cooked apple allowing the pretence that it’s actually quite healthy.

It’s no wonder the local area is thrilled to have Antic in town, and Ravensbourne Arms is undoubtedly a high street highlight. In fact, the challenge is on for any pub in London to whip such an expectation beating three course meal for under twenty quid. And to serve it with a smile, too. I certainly can’t think of anywhere that does it better...

Ravensbourne Arms, 323 Lewisham High Street, SE13

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