Local Life – The Fentiman Arms, Oval:
A few months ago I went along to the relaunch party for the Fentiman Arms. It’s one of those places that is not quite, but nearly a local for me, about 15 minutes walk from home. And, as a relative newcomer to Walworth, it’s somewhere I’d walked past and considered trying. But, of course, it’s much easier to find somewhere to eat in central London and as it only takes me about 15 minutes to get to Soho on the tube, more often than not that’s what I do. So it wasn’t until I was invited to come along to the relaunch that I actually made it inside. It was a packed event with a mixture of press and local residents – and I escaped rather quickly, with every intent of returning.
Back again last week for supper, everything was exactly as I’d hoped. Downstairs the bar was buzzing. I discovered when we left that it was quiz night – but for whatever reason, there was a cheery and friendly group of people there when I arrived at 7ish. Upstairs, the dining room is panelled and painted in Farrow and Ball colours. It’s cosy, even when the fire isn’t lit, with a bar at one end and well-spaced tables with comfy chairs. And, the food is nicely consistent and British – there’s even a section tagged as ‘Back to School’ but, I don’t remember my school (which was quite a posh place) ever serving calves liver or hollandaise…
I started with a glass of prosecco, whilst my companion enjoyed a Gin and Tonic. The bar offers a good range of artisan gins – she picked the Hendricks, which came with a cucumber garnish and was apparently very refreshing.
For starters, my companion picked the whisky oak smoked salmon with orange, pomegranate and mizuna. A large plate arrived but with no bread. We asked and received a good basket of artisan bread but, I’m surprised this wasn’t offered as standard with the salmon (£8.50)
My scampi and sprats with creme fraiche tartare sauce came from the ‘Nibbles’ side of the menu and were excellent value at £6.50. I loved the contrast of the salty, meaty textured sprats with the softer, sweeter scampi pieces. I WAS tempted to order rosemary and truffle oil triple cooked chips but resisted.
For my main course, I order lemon and thyme roast chicken with skinny fries, gravy and mixed leaf salad. The chicken was delicious and so were the fries, but I’d have liked the option to choose the aforementioned triple cooked chips or even new potatoes. And, I thought the dressing on the salad was a little sweet. At £14.50 this was a hearty portion for a steal, though.
My companion ordered the 28 day dry aged Angus sirloin steak with bone marrow and parsley butter, watercress and fries. She was impressed, both with the cooking of the steak and with the melting bone marrow and parsley butter. At £25 this is one of the more expensive options on the menu, but she pronounced it fully worth the price.
We were also impressed with the service – by this stage, we’d moved onto wine and our waitress made some very sensible recommendations. She also gave us each tastings of an alternative. And, we both picked her recommendation. As my companion remarked, while you expect that kind of service in an upmarket restaurant, it isn’t standard for your local pub. So, thank you to Olivia.
It’s likely that neither of us should have ordered the desserts. But we did – in small portions. And the chef obliged – my figgy pudding with a dollop of clotted cream instead of ice cream was perfect – a sticky, figgy fruit pudding not unlike Christmas pud but with a distinct taste of figs.
My companion was less impressed with her crumble – and if I am honest, the topping looked as if it had been added as an afterthought.
All in, we were very impressed with my new local! I’ll definitely be back for more!
The Fentiman Arms
64 Fentiman Road,
Oval, London, SW8 1LA