Good things hardly ever come of choosing a restaurant at the last minute, in a country that you are not familiar with. I always feel the pressure when we go abroad – because I write a food blog it is automatically assumed that I know where we should go for a meal. On top of that, I didn’t get my tendency for critical analysis of food from no where – I got it from a love of good food, yes, but also from years of osmosis from my family. And so, if I choose a bad restaurant for us to eat at, it is automatically my fault that we ate a bad meal. The words of a great Brit, Freddie Mercury, ring true – when we are in London, I am Under Pressure.
And so here I am for my annual May trip, and I was faced with such a challenge yesterday. Given 15 minutes to choose and reserve a table for lunch at a restaurant that served decent (but not too expensive) food, near Finchley Road, I found an interesting looking pub called The Prince Alfred:
Good but inexpensive = pub grub ✔
Located in Maida Vale ✔
Added bonus: an establishment with character and interesting features ✔
I was attracted to The Prince Alfred because I do love some good pub grub, and also because of its interior features. It’s a rare example of a late Victorian Public House, or “Pub”. It’s separated into 5 compartments as “some preferred not to be seen drinking by their inferiors, or superiors for that matter”. There are tiny access doors in the mahogany partitions between the compartments, which we had to duck under à la Alice in Wonderland, and were seated in a bright and airy separate dining room, which was the restaurant section of the pub, called The Formosa Dining Room.
They offer a very reasonable set lunch, two courses for ₤12 or 3 courses for ₤15.50. The sticky toffee pudding was particularly enticing, but we decided to order from the à la carte menu, which featured more of it’s ‘specialties’.
After seeing this sign on the wall, I just had to order that ‘crispy’ pork belly. However, when it was served, the plate was rather unattractive, lacking in colour and bland – I immediately ordered some sautéed spinach, which was the best part of the meal. To be fair, the black pudding was also quite tasty. The pork belly however, was dry, fatty, and not very nice to look at. ‘Twice-cooked’ was an intelligent spin on the fact that it had been pre-cooked, and then re-cooked.