Sunday lunch at The Black Lion

When we did our initial Sunday lunch crawl through West Hampstead, the Lion – as it was then – was on the brink of shutting up shop for a while in order to be refurbed, rebranded, reimagined and reinvigorated. We therefore decided that it wouldn’t be fair to include it in the roast beef round-up and we’d return once it was up and running in its new incarnation.

Which is exactly what we did on that blisteringly hot Sunday a couple of weeks ago. You know the one. It will be remembered as “That hot Sunday in 2012”.

We were able to sit outside on the terrace of the newly refitted The Black Lion. Our table was hot enough for some benihana style Japanese cooking, and we lathered on the sun cream as we looked at the menu. After 15 Sunday lunches of sharing plates, his time we had the luxury at least of having our own meals all to ourselves.

A selection of the Sunday main course options

For starters we should have had gazpacho (which happens to be the oddest heckle I’ve ever heard at a comedy gig), but instead we all went for either the grilled asparagus, or the cured salmon. Both very good – although this is the second time I’ve had the salmon there and it was thinner and more delicate the first time.

Then came the mains. Obviously at least some of us had to have beef – in this case it’s Dexter beef (although the menu doesn’t specify which cut). Tom had fish & chips and Claire tried out the veggie option of roast butternut squash, wild mushroom and almond pancakes with a red pepper sauce.

Beef (and Dom’s arm)

The beef was good – i think they might have got their mediums and their medium rares mixed up, but no big deal. Portion size was impressive, the Yorkshires teetered precariously on top like some limestone rock formation, and the bed of vegetables were all properly cooked (in fact they were slightly over rather than very under as we had had elsewhere).

Tom seemed pleased with his fish & chips, which looked… well, it looked like fish & chips. Claire claimed her pancakes were a good vegetarian option; a change from risotto or the ubiquitous nut roast.

I thought the roast potatoes were good, but it took a long time to get Dom – the arbiter of all things tuber – to pass judgement, and even when he did he was a bit non-committal.

My only criticisms were that there wasn’t enough gravy (though I’m sure we could have asked for more), and it looked like mine had split. No complaints with the flavour though.

Deep bowl for Tom’s deep appetite

We managed to squeeze in desserts: cheesecake, cheese, and a sticky toffee pudding for Anna – a recent convert to the delights of stickiness and toffeeness. All were good – and the cheeseboard came with an extra menu with lengthy descriptions of the cheeses. A nice touch.

Dom and the girls blitzed their way through rather a lot of prosecco, while Tom and I demolished a really good Palestra from the Douro – excellent value as most Portuguese reds are at the moment.

There is no doubt that The Black Lion is an excellent addition to the eating options in West Hampstead. The prices are reasonable, if not cheap, but the service is good and there’s a sense that they are really trying hard to make it work. There are plans for a full-size barbecue on the terrace, which people might find more appealing than the one at the Alice House, which on that particular day was on the street outside the front door in line with the exhaust fumes of the 139 and 328 buses.

Of course lots of us will be trying out The Black Lion for Sunday lunch very soon at Whampgather IX – lets hope we all get as good a meal then as Team Roast did on our very very final Sunday lunch tasting. I’ve added the scores to the spreadsheet you can find here.

Roast beef: £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 7
Sets the bar high for West End Lane.

  • Anonymous

    I have been a resident of West Hampstead on and off for about 6 years. I knew this pub when it was just the Lion. It’s been revamped fairly recently and after some time out of the country I came back to try it out. First experience was nice enough, Saturday breakfast, good food but a bit cold, good cappucinos, friendly staff. We sat in the garden and ended up moving inside because we were attacked by gangs of aphids. Second experience, not so good. Sunday night quiz I got there early to get a table for myself and 10 friends who live locally. All the booth tables were reserved except one, so I sat down at the unreserved table and ordered a drink. After about 30 minutes, a member of staff came over with a reserved sign to tell me that the table was reserved. It can’t be, was my reply, I’ve been here for 30 minutes and there was no sign when I arrived. She was quite persistent so I asked to speak with the manager. The manager arrived and explained that the table was reserved but that she had removed the sign at lunch time for other customers and forgotten to put it back. I could have some other tables pushed together if I wanted, but when I looked around there certainly didn’t seem to be enough room for 11 people to sit comfortably together. When I said that I wasn’t happy with that I was just told, sorry you’ll have to move, the table’s reserved. No genuine apology, no attempt to make me feel welcome as a customer, a real attitude problem and no acceptable solution to what was the manager’s mistake. I would have probably moved happily if she had given me a genuine smile and explained she’d had a busy day and made a mistake but they’d do their best to make us comfortable somewhere else. But instead I got an aggressive reply and a shrug. There are plenty of nice bars on West End Lane like the Gallery and the Alice House. Or the North London on Kilburn High Road with a good wine list. The Railway’s closer, it’s got nice beer, good attitude and a pool table. So you know what, new Black Lion, I and my 10 friends are not coming back. Nul points.