Pub scores a hearty welcome back to the gastro scene
Tom Marshall savours a foodie haven in the Tufnell Park Tavern
Tufnell Park Tavern
Tufnell Park Road, N7
020 7281 6113
After lying dormant and boarded up for a year-and-a-half, new life was breathed into the site of the one-time Progress Bar at the start of the summer, as it reverted to its former name Tufnell Park Tavern.
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The place has been taken on by Handmade Pubs, a group with a strong pedigree including the Lord Stanley in Camden Square and the Lansdowne in Primrose Hill, one of the forerunners of the gastro-pub scene.
The passing of its leather-filled American pool bar predecessor two years ago had left many of Tufnell Park’s denizens less than devastated – including my companion, a former barman there.
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But its refurbished and much-improved return seems to have been warmly welcomed, and the place has enjoyed a successful first six months.
It is now firmly a foodie pub. One section has become a deli serving breakfasts and light lunches during the day, while the former pool room has been expanded and transformed into a large dining hall, with geometrically positioned wooden tables and comfortable-looking booths along the wall.
“Perfect for a birthday party if you don’t have many friends,” mused my friend.
But after his initial scepticism about returning to the scene of an un-fondly remembered summer job, he was quickly won round by a delicious glass of Rioja.
His “perfectly cooked and delicately flavoured” roast bream, accompanied by leeks cooked in red wine and lightly buttered new potatoes, sealed the deal, while my creamy rigatoni and pumpkin dish was also very good.
A well-seasoned venison and bacon terrine, perfectly complemented by a sharp cranberry relish, had started us off strongly and an interesting salad of watercress, orange and sheep’s cheese, with toasted almonds, went down fairly well, although perhaps the combination, along with the dressing, was together a little on the sour side – and the whole almonds did little to temper this as I struggled with the delicate balancing act of getting them from plate to mouth.
A wonderfully rich chocolate mousse-like Chocolate St Emilion was the pick of the desserts.
The Tufnell Park Tavern is the latest addition to the Handmade Pubs stable, and its biggest project to date. The manager Martin Larnach says the name Handmade reflects what it is about – it wants to create a warm and friendly local, full of regulars and homespun bonhomie.
While it may be altogether too neat and slick, or at least needs to feel a little more lived in before it quite reaches that mark, it is a great addition to the area and serves quality food.
– TOM MARSHALL
Mains: from �9.50 to �17.50
Wines: from �14.50
Children welcome: yes
Disabled access: yes