Puts the pub in gastro pub. The Northcote shows you can be a proper boozer, show live sport and serve up quality food.
The Northcote is a behemoth of a building, taking up an entire corner along its namesake, Northcote Road. The bold signage and large windows declare its presence, alongside a sign proclaiming its status as a ‘food pub’ - none of that gastro pub nonsense, then.
Inside, it’s modern but without the cold chain bar touches that sap the heart out of so many watering holes. A large wooden bar acts as a centrepiece to the action. There’s no separate area for dining, instead simple wooden tables and chairs fill the large, airy space. Comfort isn’t sacrificed for style as the cushioned high chairs at the bar attest. Two large screens placed in opposite corners offer good views from all angles of the room and screen sporting events.
That said, some thought has clearly been given to the aesthetic of the space and decorative flourishes include a large painting of a nobleman with a custard pie on his head, attractive circular light fittings over the bar and granny lamp chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Striped pillars and a few plants completes the look.
If you’re bored of staid gastro pubs then The Northcote is the ideal antidote, offering quality food with a laid back pub atmosphere. The staff are extremely friendly and although the service lacks the etiquette you find in restaurants and even other gastro pubs, the charm shines through and soon wins you over.
At the weekends, its position a short stroll from Clapham Junction station and the myriad of bars the area offers works in its favour as it quickly fills with thirsty punters looking for a night out drinking. The crowd is definitely not the kind you’ll find at more traditional gastro pubs, instead expect a chilled out group of young Claphamites looking to unwind. Surprisingly, this works well and if you’re dining the thriving atmosphere only adds to the experience and the pumping music isn’t so loud that you can’t enjoy a conversation.
The menu at The Northcote comprises well priced British classics. Starters (£4.50-£6.50) offer a handful of dishes that cover most tastes. The chicken liver pate (£6) arrives looking bland - a grey pate plonked on the plate beside two pieces of toast and a pile of chutney; however, it’s actually very good. The smooth, creamy flavour of the pate works well with the slightly tart sweetness of the chutney and the delicate crunch of the toast. A pleasant surprise. Alternatively, the sweet potato, goat’s cheese and onion tart looks a lot more appealing. A generous slice of a vibrant coloured tart arrives beside a bed of salad drizzled in balsamic vinegar. The tart is well flavoured with a delicate underlying sweetness counteracted by the creamy goat cheese and tang of the onions.
Main courses mostly come in at under a tenner and include Welsh rarebit on field mushrooms (£8) - a rather sickly, overpowering dish that does deliver on flavour. The cheese is heavy but flavoursome and the mushrooms add an earthy depth, which is pleasant. Highly recommended is the salad of roasted beetroot (£8.50), a hefty dish for a salad that’s certain to satisfy. Large pieces of vinegary beetroot are complemented well by chunks of goat’s cheese melted inside breadcrumbs, offering a gooey consistency that’s balanced by the fresh mountain of green salad. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar brings it all together perfectly. Recommended is a side of well cooked new potatoes in a rich, creamy butter (£2.50).
Finally, a dessert of Eton Mess is a good example of the dish with crunchy, sugary pieces of meringue in a rich creamy sauce with blueberries instead of strawberries working surprisingly well with more depth of flavour than the sweeter strawberry.
A good selection of draught beer at The Northcote is a nod to its pub roots. Options include Bitburger, Stella, Kronenbourg, Fosters and Guinness. However, if you’re dining there’s also a very impressive wine selection, sectioned by style and well described with a very good choice on offer by the glass. Port (£4 a glass), Champagne (£24-£49) and rose (£14.70-£19) sit comfortably next to a decent choice of red and white wine (£12.90-£23.50). Highly recommended is the Merlot Yalumba 2007 (£17.20), a soft red with spicy tannins, a velvety finish and raspberry and blackberry notes.
The Last Word
If you’re looking for decent gastro pub style food in the setting of a modern, charming boozer then head to The Northcote.