The Crown pub has a felicitous location, overlooking the fountains and wrought iron gates of Victoria Park in London’s East End. The upstairs has been transformed into a gastropub-style dining room, painted in French grey, with a dresser, vintage china, a shabby-chic mix of scrubbed pine tables and black and white photographs on the wall.
Waiting for my carnivore date, Mr Pop Quiz Whiz, to arrive, I was served the softest bloomer loaf with ‘English houmous’ and anchovy mayonnaise (£2.50). The houmous turned out to be mashed butterbeans. Heavy on the garlic (always a good thing in my book) it needed a little olive oil, but it was a nice variation on a standard dish.
Mr Pop, it turns out, is a real ale man, ordering a pint of Doombar. But they had run out, so he settled on London Pride. I stuck with Chardonnay to accompany my Caesar salad (£5.95) compromised of anchovies (actually ‘boquerones’, a Spanish tapas fave), croutons, mini gem lettuces and Parmesan. Unfortunately the lettuce tasted rather fishy and the croutons were slightly burnt. Mr Pop’s soup of the day (£5): mushroom and lentil, was thickly intense in fungi flavour.
The wine list was helpfully divided into sections: Elegant Cool Whites, Aromatic Whites, Warm Hearted Reds, Chardonnay Lovers and Friends – for those of us who know what we like but not necessarily the name of the vintage.
I chose the special grilled sea bass on a bed of crushed new potatoes for main. The waxy yellow potatoes were perfectly seasoned, and the crème fraiche sauce delighted. Mr Pop wanted the roast beef. They had run out due to it’s understandable popularity on a Sunday. He ordered pork and leek sausages and mash with red wine jus (£10.50).
‘No mash,’ stated the ringleted waiter. ‘Chips?’
Mr Pop was disappointed by the sausages: ‘Walls’ he stated perfunctorily. But I’m not sure I trust him. In more ways than one.
Perhaps it was a little unfair to review the food on a Sunday night when the kitchen was winding down, but the chips, usually hand cut (£2.50) were clearly of the frozen oven variety.
Mr Pop was telling me about his youthful affair with a 52-year-old woman as ‘Maggie May’ floated upstairs. Downstairs, young ladies were stomping joyfully to live music. On one table I spied a group dropping small glasses filled with a dark liquid into larger glasses.
‘What are those?’ I enquired.
‘Jagerbombs!’ they giggled. ‘Jagermeister liqueur with Red Bull.’
Encouraged by the party atmosphere, I ordered one at the bar. Sipping gingerly I was commanded to
‘Down it in one!’ by the friendly barmaid. ‘
‘I’d better not,’ said Mr Pop ‘Red Bull makes me cry’.
223 Grove Road
Tel: 020 8880 7261