The Greyhound, Kensal Rise, London
With so many venues laying false claim to the gastro pub mantle, it's a relief to find one that actually fits its billing. The paper napkins, worn pine furniture and simple gutsy dishes found at the Greyhound wouldn't have been out of place at Mike Belben's original gastro pub, the Eagle in Farringdon, circa 1991.
The team responsible for the updated version is Kushti, a company comprising four young friends turned pub operators. A compressed modern British menu features treats including baby squid salad (£6.50), mussels & clams alla sardignola (£6) and Portabella mushrooms stuffed with goats' cheese, red pepper, tarragon and crème fraîche (£5.50) to start. Mains are priced between £8 and £14.50 with choices ranging from stuffed rabbit wrapped in Parma ham and served on a bed of creamy leeks with a white wine and balsamic sauce, to the Greyhound 1/4lb Scottish beef burger.
The excellent food is cooked from an open kitchen and was delivered swiftly from hob to table. The sirloin steak was succulent, rich and free from corruption by over-elaborate sauces or garnishes. The dish arrived simply with green beans, mushrooms and chips. The accompanying sauce to mussels & clams alla sardignola was perhaps slightly thin but carried a satisfying zing.
The Greyhound also offers a good desserts choice from £4.50 to £6; the rhubarb and apple crumble with custard was heartily filling.
The pub is split into a bar and dining area. Décor is an alluring mix of elegant black and red leather banquettes, reclaimed chairs and potted shrubbery lit by red fairy lights. The stand-out decoration is the dining room painting of Bewdley Breeze, a racing greyhound after which the pub is named.
Hopefully Kushti's decision to sell its former venue, the Gunmakers in Clerkenwell, late last year will not lead to further consolidation in 2005.
The Greyhound's great pedigree would be sorely missed in Kensal Rise.
PubChef Rating (out of 10)
Ambiance 8, Value for money 7,
Flavour factor 9, Overall Impression 9
BEERS: Bitburger, Adnams Broadside, Fuller's London Pride, Charles Wells Bombardier
MAIN COURSES: From £8 to £14.50
WINES ON LIST: 22 reds, 20 whites, two rosés and six Champagnes. Choices include Phoenix Three Choirs (£15 England) and Hunters Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£25.50 New Zealand).
ANOTHER THING: Bewdley Breeze, the Greyhound after which the pub is named, was owned by Kushti co-director James McDowell's Irish uncle. The fleet-footed dog was a champion racer.