One of only a few decent boozers in this affluent part of north London, The Salisbury knocks out some good food to go with the well-kept beers, solid wine list and pretty pleasant atmosphere.
Just down from the green, this large and longstanding Winchmore Hill pub pulls in punters looking for something a little less raucous than those places down toward Green Lanes, enticing them into a surprisingly cosy venue with loads of nooks, crannies and corners to hide in. It looks good too, with banquettes, big leather sofas, thick slabs of wooden tables and a (slightly) separate restaurant for those seeking a little bit of peace and quiet. An open kitchen at the end of the lengthy bar is a nice touch for a gastropub, and two outside areas get really busy when the sun comes out, even if the views of the car park and a few flats are hardly hugely handsome.
Predominantly attracting a crowd of relatively well-heeled locals in their late twenties and early thirties, The Salisbury isn’t exactly riotous, but that’s not to say that the large groups (of which there are a few) don’t veer into the rowdy on occasion – they’re just usually polite enough not to keep it going. Saturday and Sunday afternoons see newspapers sprawled out and shared on the big tables, whilst surprisingly busy weekday evenings hint at how lively it usually is on a Friday and Saturday night. Staff are pretty speedy, and seem to boast an admirable dedication to serving people in the right order.
It’s the kind of gastropub grub you’re likely to see in pubs across London, not least if you’ve been to The Ranelagh in Bounds Green: it’s exactly the same menu. However, the quality is high and the prices are not, which is probably why the kitchen remains pretty busy throughout much of the week. There’s a pretty good roast on Sundays, as well as some decent bar food, but the main restaurant menu offers perhaps the most interesting options.
A starter of pork belly (£5.25) is every bit as tender and flavoursome as it should be, and complemented astutely by a feather-light salad of balsamic beetroot, sweet potato, apples and leaves. The criminal absence of crackling, though, makes one weep. Potted smoked mackerel (£5.75) fares much better, with some very lemony, well-potted fish served with toast and a generous spoon of what appears to be homemade, chunky horseradish. An impressive ox cheek and red wine pie (£10.50) boasts some very good, winey depth, and the kale colcannon on the side is rich and buttery, and seasoned impeccably.
The burger (handmade from West Country beef, apparently - £9.50) is good and suitably messy, and the steak (a 10oz rib-eye) just about a good enough cut to warrant the £16 price tag. However it’s the shoulder of lamb (£13.50) that’s probably your best bet, slow cooked to soft and yielding and served with minted peas and baby potatoes.
A more than decent cheeseboard (£6.75) featuring Taw Valley cheddar, Cropwell Bishop stilton and Cornish brie is generous, and mercifully served at room temperature – no mean feat, if other venues of this ilk are anything to go by. If cheese isn’t your thing then the dark chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream (£5) is toothsome enough to keep sweet teeth sweet.
That lengthy bar is there for a reason, it seems, with an impressive array of ales, ciders, beers and lagers on tap, and many of them changing on a pretty regular basis. An excellent pint of Doom Bar (£3.50) is usually available, with Sambrook’s Wandle (£3.45), Timothy Taylor Landlord (£3.60) and a variety of Adnams all regular, well-kept guests on twenty separate pumps. Peroni, Budvar and Guinness are also on tap, and whilst the wine list isn’t exactly huge, it’s pretty well-thought out, with enough choice to please even the most pedantic Winchmore Hill palate.
The Last Word
The Salisbury is such a nice pub that it's all too easy to simply hunker down for a few beers or a bottle of wine or two. However, the food coming out of the kitchen is certainly good enough to ensure this place shouldn't just be seen as a watering hole for the grown ups of N21.