“A gastropub: an idiotic term coined by those who somehow thought a properly poured pint couldn’t, or shouldn’t, co-exist with fine quality food. I, to tell you the truth, used to be just such an idiot.” – Anthony Bourdain (The Layover: Dublin, 2013)
Finally: Anthony Bourdain is on board. The pinnacle that follows years of him outwardly slating the notion that pubs should serve anything beyond sloppy meat pies and bangers and mash.
As far as I know, A.A. Gill remains wholeheartedly unconvinced. The last I heard from him regarding this topic (which, admittedly, was a 2008 edition of Table Talk), he was of the stance that ‘food and pubs go together like frogs and lawn mowers, vampires and tanning salons, mittens and Braille’. Perhaps these days he is more forgiving of the concept? But then again, probably not.
I, for one, love a good pub meal. Anywhere that I can get a reliably good drink and a decent plate of food is a winner in my books.
Speaking of winning, I am still coming to terms with the fact that in the UK my wine-by-the-glass choice is not limited to variety or style. No, no, no – here I get the additional option of size (‘would you like small, medium or large?…what do you think). This must be how it feels to stumble into your closet and realise you have discovered the magical land of Narnia.
Anyway, back to our topic of conversation: London pubs. Perhaps I am so enamoured by them because Sydney has so few. Rather, Sydney has so few good ones. Despite being a direct descendent of the Mother Land, for some reason it seems as though we simply cannot piece together a well-rounded pub that I don’t feel guilty wasting my weekend in. I can count on one hand alone my favourite pubs across Sydney – whereas here, I have dozens of favourites littered across town.
However, there is one in particular that keeps dragging me back.
The Orange. Come to think of it, I am not sure this establishment can entirely be classified as a pub – but it doesn’t fit comfortably into the restaurant or bar category either. Regardless, I have written this much and I am certainly not starting again. In my own self-defence, it does refer to itself as a public house, which is just a more formal, drawn out way of saying pub.
Once again, I digress. So, the beers on tap are nothing to write home about. But they do offer Billecart-Salmon for £11 by the glass! I firmly believe that this more than makes up for the beer shortfall. The Swede disagrees. He doesn’t think any ‘proper’ pub should serve fine French Champagne, much less by the glass. To this, I disagree. One all.
My big love for The Orange likely extends from the fact that the place is laid back but utterly stylish. Indoor dining spaces are casual, comfortable and homely. Service is friendly but efficient and a table is generally hot on the heels of arrival, despite the fact they don’t take bookings in the downstairs dining room. My only wish is that the outdoor seating received a little more afternoon sun. But hey, what can you do.
The menu changes often, which is a lucky coincidence given The Swede and I drop by often. It is always fresh, seasonal food that I think can best be described as Modern European (whatever that means). I have included below a selection of dishes from some of our most recent visits, which will give you a decent idea surrounding what to expect.
Burrata, Parma ham, black figs, rocket and romesco: I love burrata, so it was always going to be hard to go wrong for me here. I liked the salty kick afforded by the ham and the Romesco brought a great flavour element. Simple but really delicious.
Rock oysters, shallot dressing, lemon: these speak for themselves. Plump, juicy, saline and fresh. I like mine with just a squeeze of lemon. If you need anything else, you’re not doing it right.
Tomato and saffron steamed mussels with fennel and a side of herb skinny fries: The Orange serves up some of the best mussels I have had in London and they are usually my go-to order. However, they do change them up a bit flavour-wise and I wasn’t as keen on the cider and shallot version served with focaccia I had more recently. Fries or nothing.
Pan-fried cod with garden peas, fresh truffles, seaweed and broth: the perfect light lunch, this had lovely clean, bright flavours. I loved the subtlety of the broth, boosted by the hearty undertone of black truffle. The fish was cooked perfectly, with crispy skin and just-cooked flesh. I hope it is still on the menu for next time, as I would happily eat this again (and again).
Pork, black garlic mash, wild mushrooms, turnip and fig jus: Admittedly, this was not one of my favourite menu options and I probably wouldn’t order it again. However, I did find the black garlic mash interesting, even if a little dry. The pork was moist and flavourful and paired well with the fig jus. The mushrooms and baby turnips were probably my favourite elements on the plate.
Sunday roast – Suffolk chicken with bacon and sage stuffing, served with all the trimmings and seasonal vegetables: The Orange produces serves up a great Sunday roast. I have run the full gamut (pork, chicken and beef) and have not been let down once. This is definitely worth making the trip for.
Chocolate and caramel shortcake, peanut mousse, banana brûlée: I am not a sweet tooth in any sense of the word, but I definitely fought for my fair share of this dessert. It was really delicious and I think it was the interplay between salty and sweet that won it for me. The dessert menu changes often and I do find it a bit hit-and-miss…but I guess that is just how I am with dessert.
If you think this post was written in a bid to lure you to The Orange, you are wrong. The Orange is mine. Find your own favourite. In a city with so many pubs to choose from, I guarantee it will not be a difficult feat – and is there anything more fun than hopping from one watering hole to the next sampling their wares? I think not!
Once you have one to call your own, I want to hear all about it! Do you love it for its food or booze? And what are your thoughts on pub dining?
Lastly, if you do find yourself at The Orange one sunny Sunday afternoon – come say hi and pull up a chair.