It’s not traditionally somewhere you might take your 6 week-old son. Westow House at the junction of Anerley Hill and Westow Hill is locally known as The Meat Market: weekend nights are out of bounds unless you’re under 25 and of a certain persuasion and so far I’ve only been there twice, both times after about three vodka, soda and limes too many… and that was enough. It’s a shame because the interior was built for lingering weekend afternoons on the sofas, perhaps someone daringly tickling the ivories in the corner (as opposed to something more animate…)
But… but… Westow House has now been taken over by Antic Pubs, who also run Jam Circus in Brockley amongst others, and d’you know, it’s quite a change of pace. There’s now a menu of classic British pub grub-ness – think burgers, fish & chips, Ploughman’s and so on – and the vibe, particularly during the day, is one of calm and cosiness. Weird.
We’ve now been en famille twice in a week. Yes, twice. It was that good. Given that men have gone to the moon in spaceships with less technology than the pram we are toting, we’re always on the lookout for somewhere a little more spacious and you cannot get into Domali for love nor money on a weekday lunch for other buggy-toting mothers. We’d heard rumours of a sea-change at The Westow and ambled over for a gander.
Of course, being a Tuesday lunch, it was deserted apart from a man in the corner reading a paper, but he didn’t look as if he was going to start a riot so we settled ourselves in with a pint of rather good cider and perused the menu.
At £10 for a choice of four dishes from what they’re ludicrously calling the Tapas Menu, it was a bargain. NB: if they’re not Spanish dishes, let’s call them something else. Starters, maybe, or Small Plates, or Grazing or Snacking something-or-other but for the love of all that’s holy let’s leave the tapas nomenclature where it belongs. Anyway. Breathe… So we shared a wedge of a good meaty pork pie with personality-full piccalilli; a dish of tiny little sausages with a grape mustard and apple sauce combo; a bowl of hand-cut skin-on chips; and a thick slice of properly-made Welsh Rarebit that was so delicious I claimed a good three-quarters of it and let MCD have my chips. It was perfect – filling, good value and most importantly, it all tasted great.
So on Friday, we actually eschewed a pizza at Mediterranea (and that took some effort) and went again, this time going the main course route. MCD’s pollock and chips were bigger and better than the comparable dish at The Mansion in Gipsy Hill and I would say the same about my burger with Stilton, the only downside being they didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked. And just while I think about it, why fashion burgers so thick you can’t fit them in your mouth? Why not use the same weight of meat for a thinner patty that you don’t have to cut with a knife and fork, feeling like a poncy lemon as you do so? Just a thought…
We even had puddings. MCD’s choice of treacle tart with creme fraiche and blackberries was good, if not quite solid enough for my taste. The Green & Black’s chocolate fondant was perfectly cooked and would have been even better had it come with the advertised rum & raisin ice cream rather than vanilla. But again, we finished them both, rather at a trot as MCD Junior was showing signs of waking.
It’s a true revelation. Something approaching a gastropub in Crystal Palace and I can honestly say it’s all the better for it. Now all we need is to find out what’s going up instead of the Talon Salon…