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Tom’s wowed by “potatoey” chips

A jolly good time was had by all in the Black Lion in Kilburn, for a friend’s birthday last week. It’s a pub I find particularly welcoming and relaxing; spacious, combined with many leather sofas to chill out on, and the gorgeous decor and opulent ceiling-work.

Sticking with a sauvignon blanc all evening to avoid a school-night hangover (didn’t work, but the wine was lovely), I launched into a haddock and chips, which whilst not matching the grandness of The (West Hampstead) Black Lion’s version in terms of big, crispy batter, this was still pretty good.

Special mention goes to the most flavoursome mushy peas I’ve had for ages – really nice to see extra attention to such a simple thing. My watercress salad came with shaved parmesan, and we all enjoyed the wonderful olives as well. (I do love good quality olives; was delighted to stumble upon pick & mix options in the grocery at the top of the KHR recently, opposite the now-closed Angeles restaurant – another successful, booze-fuelled, midnight Kilburn shopping jaunt).

A word about the very fine chips, too. I like that one can get different variants of chips these days; who doesn’t enjoy the marvellous textures of triple-cooked ones, for example? But the Black Lion’s have their own character too, being – for want of a better word – highly potatoey, with a more subtle outer texture to the skin rather than all-out crispness, and splendid colour. Really, with some bread and tomato ketchup, a dish on their own.

Other plates happily demolished included asparagus and blue cheese risotto, burgers, chargrilled sirloin with chips, pickled schimichi mushrooms and garlic butter, and a very impressive-looking pan-fried duck breast with sautéed truffle potatoes, wilted baby spinach, spicy mango and chilli tartare, plus summer berry sauce!

The staff looked after us, bringing out the birthday cake as planned, and just in time, too – I’d forgotten and was about to order dessert.

Summer’s out, and the weather’s getting annoying again, we’ll be needing shelter inside warm, inviting, uplifting pubs like The Black Lion. Line me up a nice, comforting Rioja please…