You know what you’re getting with pubs in the Nicholson’s stable, and this popular Soho spot does its job perfectly well. So expect decent real ales and unadventurous wines to flow.
In a Soho that is moving more and more toward the trendy (a no-reservations restaurant serving burgers made by a chef who’s worked at Noma can’t be far away) it’s good to see traditional boozers like this still going strong. It’s not exactly spit and sawdust, mind, and although it essentially boasts that typical old school pub look (lots of wood, hand pumps, slightly scratchy seating and plenty of people chuffing on ciggies outside) it’s a pretty attractive little spot. Light streams in during the day, well-buffed wooden flooring offers a bit of character and flowers and a touch of chintz up the decorative ante. It’s a pleasant spot for a beer or two, and maybe a bit of food.
It’s right in the middle of Soho, so even after work on a Monday it can get busy. Come Thursday or Friday it’s positively stuffed, but the staff are pretty dab hands at sloshing out the ale and pouring the wine, so wait times are mercilessly manageable. There are plenty of media types mingling with those grabbing a pre-dinner drink, with everyone in relatively good spirits and pleasingly polite at the bar. Thankfully, the lads on tour that pepper these parts will either bypass here completely or swing by only for a pint before they get tanked up, ripped off in a clip joint and covered in kebab for the ride home.
There’s a dedicated restaurant upstairs, and you can tuck into the same menu downstairs. It’s pub grub, but decent pub grub, so there’s good quality smoked salmon (served with great malted brown bread and lemon and dill dressing, £6.45), impressively light calamari (£4.95 starter), a good plate of fish and chips (£11.75) that proves very popular, and a sausage and mash (£10.50) that would put most pubs to shame thanks to some lovely venison and red wine sausages. The steak frites (£9.95) could be a little less tough, and the burger (£9.50) is unlikely to worry the trendy burger joints nearby, but on the whole this isn’t a bad place for a feed.
Nicholson’s tend to take their ales relatively seriously, so not only are they kept well, but there’s a good selection too. They are on rotation, but Caledonian’s Flying Scotsman, Stonehenge Brewery’s Eye Opener, Adnams’ Fat Sprat and Exmoor Brewery’s Gold are all worth keeping an eye out for. The wines are less exciting, but an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc isn’t bad value at all at £19.95 for the bottle, and even a Jake’s Point Chardonnay is pretty good, and inexpensive at £14.75.
The Last Word
Legend says that Mozart performed here way back when. And whilst that’s certainly debatable, you get the impression his classical sensibilities might have warmed to such a pleasant homage to the simple life.