The Windmill a hotel, pub and restaurant based on Clapham Common. How good a time you’ll have depends on why you’re visiting...
Make no mistake, the location of Windmill on the Common is first class. Sat on Clapham Common itself, this is a pub that can boast London’s biggest beer garden, as you have acres of parkland at your disposal – and a pretty good pub-owned beer garden to boot. Inside is a huge space and a beautiful pub with lots of heavy woods, squishy sofas and nooks and crannies for settling into with a pint. It’s the kind of place that immediately puts you at ease. And the dining room is equally – if not more so – beautiful, based in a conservatory with a large glass ceiling, a muted but not dull colour scheme, and unusual touches like a light made out of sticks. Really. And that’s not even taking into account the twenty nine hotel rooms that manage to fit into this building, either. It’s certainly one of Clapham’s more impressive pubs as far as space goes.
On a hot sunny day few pubs can beat The Windmill. Claphamites head here in their droves, spilling out of the pub into the beer garden and beyond and there’s a real festival vibe. And in the winter, the cosy interior does a great job of tempting in cold and weary locals. The staff are friendly enough and in the restaurant they make a big effort, although the service is a little awkward at times and they are lacking in some of the finer points of restaurant etiquette. Fair enough, this is a pub, but therein lies the problem. They are trying to create a beautiful dining setting with quality food and a restaurant feel and that’s where this place fails. If they stripped it back to being just a pub with proper pub grub and none of the flounce of a restaurant then they’d probably do a better job.
The food at Windmill on the Common is hit and miss. A starter of a carrot and coriander soup (£4.75) is nicely hot and thick, although it’s a little too sweet and sickly and is hard to get through as a starter. Still, the bread is served hot and crusty, which is a nice detail often overlooked. The chorizo, hen’s egg and asparagus (£6.25) is overpriced for the quality. The chorizo is too tough and chewy without enough heat and the asparagus is cut in half lengthways to make it go further. It may be an expensive ingredient but this just feels a little cheap. The hen’s egg, however, is pleasant, with a runny, gooey yolk but it’s not enough to lift the lacklustre flavours of the dish.
For main courses, the escalope of Scottish salmon (£13.75) offers a perfectly cooked, well portioned piece of fish that suffers from being under-seasoned – as have the crushed potatoes and sauce vierge. The result is a bland dish that so easily could have been good as the cooking itself is astute. It’s in total contrast to the excellent Malaysian curry – incredibly well priced at just £10.25. The curry itself has a nice heat and has been perfectly seasoned with chunks of sweet potato and chickpeas bringing a subtle sweetness to the dish. The basmati rice is light and fluffy and the naan bread is well portioned and served warm.
For dessert, the strawberry pavlova is not worth it’s £6 price tag. The meringue comes in the form of rock-hard biscuits sandwiched between an Angel Delight style strawberry cream with a few fresh strawberries plonked on top. It tastes cheap and is not what a pavlova should be. However, the chocolate and pistachio marquise (£6) is a delight. The cake is perfectly dense with just the right balance of sweetness and dark chocolate bitterness and the mascarpone cream it comes with complements it perfectly.
If you’re dining or don’t fancy a beer then there’s an excellent wine list, with well priced, well described bottles from various grapes, countries and regions. The Riesling (£25) is an excellent example, from Mission Estate New Zealand – a quality vineyard that's well represented on their list. They have clearly put a lot of thought into the selection. If you don’t fancy wine then Young’s cask ales and a good mix of lagers are in abundance at the bar.
The Last Word
This could easily be one of Clapham’s best pubs as far as the drink and beer garden go, but the hit-and-miss nature of the dining room lets it down. If you’re just heading here to enjoy the pub, stick another star on the rating.