Never judge a book by its cover. That’s the motto I’ve adopted after a recent visit to Parlour, in Kensal Rise.
With a traditional pub exterior still displaying the former name of the ‘Grey Horse’, Parlour is one of a handful of public houses that have been spruced up and transformed into trendy ‘gastropubs’ in this otherwise low-key area of north west London.
Expecting little more than a straight-forward selection of Sunday lunches and traditional British fare, we were rather surprised to hear of Parlour’s all-day serving hours.
We were surprised too to be greeted by such an extensive list of special craft beers. And with a ‘Bikini Blonde’ and a fruity number to sip on, we perused the rather quirky menu.
The options for starters were a variety of pâtés, pork pies and Ploughman’s lunch-type bites. Although I wished I’d gone for the Spinach, red onion and Wensleydale tart, the chicken liver pâté and my guest’s chicory, pear and Stilton salad proved to be good enough appetizers for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Parlour, which was formerly the ‘Regent’, is split into two parts – a dining area overlooked by the kitchen’s cubby hole, which is filled with worn leather seating and carries a ‘restauranty’ air; and the more ‘shabby chic’ surrounds of the bar, with a ‘help yourself’ toaster for 8am breakfast goers, and human-like art installations which adorn the walls.
The Victorian-esque design in fact, gives it a striking resemblance to its sister venue, The Mall Tavern in Notting Hill, more so that its more traditional sibling, the Stag in Hampstead.
The menu itself is certainly designed for meat-lovers. And apparently, isn’t quite available ‘all night’ but certainly runs until the early hours.
Realising I couldn’t share Parlour’s popular whole Goosnargh chicken with my veggie friend, I opted for the roast beef dinner and made a mental note to come back with a carnivorous one.
With the beef burger and no-frills ‘cow-pie’ out of bounds too, I wondered which non-meat delights they would offer her.
Declining the macaroni cheese, veggie burger and smoked salmon fishcake and Hollandaise sauce, she settled on the hazelnut roast.
Both arrived topped with a huge Yorkshire pudding and a pleasant mix of carrots, roast potatoes and gravy.
The beef was cooked perfectly rare, and the nut roast got a big thumbs up. Life’s not too bad being a veggie after all.
For dessert, we were in for an exciting surprise. The puddings at Parlour certainly mean business. Overlooking the likes of ‘DIY Vanilla Mousse’, and ‘Posh-Platter-of-Parlour’s-Puddins’ we tucked into a chunky apple crumble and custard and watched as our waiter put a blowtorch to a chocolate Wagon Wheel topped with marshmallows. Quite a spectacle for an afternoon pub lunch, but hey, Parlour doesn’t conform.
As we dug our teeth into the salty and sweet Wagon Wheel gooiness, my friend said it was the kind of place that made her want to take her shoes off.
Perhaps it was the glowing gas fire, the comfort food or the hard-to-beat customer service that made her feel so at home. And when we didn’t think this ‘ordinary pub’ could get any further from ordinary, we were handed traditional candy-striped sweet bags filled with Rolo-centred Bonbons.
It wasn’t quite Heston-standard but the playful menu certainly added a wonderful twist. I’m still not sure what DIY vanilla mousse is, but when I go back for late night ‘cow pie’ or Goosnargh chicken, I’ll make sure I find out.
Parlour, 5 Regent Street, London, NW10 5LG, 0208 969 2184
by Lucy McGuire