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The Princess


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Gastropubs are like the hole in the ozone layer, multinational corporations and Abi Titmuss; unpleasant side effects of modern life that aren’t going to go away just because you ignore them. Like it or not, the twilight of the boozer has had its last gleaming and a new gastropub morning is upon us. Deny it if you want, but the tarted up tavern is here to stay. Which is fine by me, as long as it’s done right.

Which brings us to The Princess in St Paul Street in the City of London, an establishment so finely engineered that any of the usual criticisms that could be levelled at your average gastropub just bounce off it. Let’s give it a try shall we?

I wouldn’t eat my dinner in a smelly, noisy pub if you paid me.

You don’t have to. The restaurant is on the first floor above the bar.

I don’t want to sit on a hard wooden chair at a table retrieved from a skip with one leg shorter than the other three.

The chairs are rather elegant teak and white leather jobs, wide enough to accommodate the arse of the fattest city fat-cat while the solid teak tables are large and well spaced.

Gastropubs think they can charge restaurant prices just because they slapped £15.99 worth of Do It All magnolia paint on the walls.

The Princess has pink and burgundy floral wallpaper, an enormous art deco mirror above a beautifully restored fireplace and crystal chandelier and wall lights.

I can get better food at my local Harvester.

Despite an improbable name, chef Zim Sutton knows his stuff and has put together an intelligent and well thought out menu of simple but delicious food.

Service in gastropubs is pure amateur hour.

Restaurant manager Tania is personable, highly professional and knows about wine.

So The Princess sails through the theory, but how does it do on the practical?

My lunch last week began with a glass of the perfectly serviceable house Chilean Sauvignon Blanc Tierra Antica 2004 and wedges of delicious multigrain bread served with butter soft enough to spread. A recommendation of a glass of 2004 Saint Claire from Malborough nearly lived up to Robert Parker’s claim (reproduced on the usefully annotated list) of it being ‘Quite possibly the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world”.

It certainly went well with my starter of three seared scallops, coral still attached, served with a granular pea puree and accompanied by some cubes of fatty, salty wild boar pancetta and a few leaves of peppery rocket. It was a beautifully balanced dish where every flavour was made to count.

A main course of Pata Negra pork cheeks braised with Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) and Rioja should have been way to heavy and autumnal for a humid summer’s day, but was in fact delightful. It was certainly a rich plate of food, especially with a generous portion of creamy roast pumpkin polenta, itself rather unseasonal, and some sauteed baby spinach that was a little too watery and under-seasoned to do a proper job of lightening the dish. The meat however was accurately braised, fork-tender but not dried out or stringy, and the sauce was lent a powerful savoury kick by the sausage. A braise for all seasons.

Hot chocolate pudding was a decent stab at the Jean George Vongerichten standard. The centre was molten, although slightly granular and thicker than it should have been, indicating that the dessert had spent a little too long in the oven. The accompanying ricotta ice cream was just a little on the rich side and plain vanilla would have been more welcome, especially as cheese featured on the only other dessert on offer (meringues with cardamom mascarpone and rosewater raspberries). A third option was, you guessed it, a plate of cheese.

In total, cheese played a part in half of the 18 dishes on offer, including starters of buffalo mozzarella with baby vine tomato salad; gnocchi with tomato, asparagus and ricotta; bbq baby chicken stuffed with feta and mint; and a side order of peas with lemon zest, mint and yet more ricotta.

Despite the diaspora of dairy, the menu read well and was fairly priced given the quality of the ingredients and the apparent ability of the kitchen. Starters are £4.95 – £6.95 for the scallops; mains £11.95 to £14.95 for aged rib-eye on the bone and desserts £4.95. Side order will set you back between £2.50 for a wedge of iceberg with caper dressing and that plate of cheese will cost you £6.95. House wine starts at just under thirteen quid for Chardonnay, Mas du Soleils, 2004, vin de pays d’Oc and the list tops out at £98.00 for a bottle of Clos Blanc de Vougeot, Domain de la Vougeraire, 2000.

Overall, the dining room at The Princess passed both the theory and practical test with honours. It’s a fine place to while away a couple of hours, as is the ground floor bar. If we must have gastropubs, and I fear we must, then let them be made in the image of The Princess.

The Princess

76 Paul Street, EC2

Tel: 020-7729 9270

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I happened on this place last week and had lunch downstairs. An added bonus is that it is one of the few pubs in London serving Landlord bitter. I went for fish and chips (downstairs has a smaller selection). No-one else was eating so I didn't know what to expect and was in my normal fearful state of 'heated up brake brothers'. But I needn't have - big flakes in a light batter and good chips. Will try upstairs next time.

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I did a Google search for this place. Is it on just "Paul Street", near Old Street tube? Or is there another Princess gastropub on St. Paul Street that I'm missing?

I just googled the Princess up, and found this link which has further links to maps and parking info.

http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformatio...Princess./57c2/

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Andy - those prices seem pretty keen. How long's it been open? Might they rise d'you think?

This point may have been made before on one of the numerous gastropub threads, but it occurs to me that one economic benefit of the gastropub model (compared to a restaurant) is that the pub customers provide a turnover at times at which a restaurant would normally be quiet.

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Andy - those prices seem pretty keen.  How long's it been open?  Might they rise d'you think?

This point may have been made before on one of the numerous gastropub threads, but it occurs to me that one economic benefit of the gastropub model (compared to a restaurant) is that the pub customers provide a turnover at times at which a restaurant would normally be quiet.

£6.95 for 3 scallops (Plus the rest of the gubbins) doesn't seem to be hiting the food cost/profit formula normally quoted - I'd say they would have to go up - not exactly a low rent location is it?

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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