Tom’s Tavern Tart

I was lazily leaning against the Priory Tavern bar (or the other way round) drinking Malbec at the recent #whampgather event, when a mysterious rumour emerged that a freshly baked tart had just become available. Having only eaten a few slices of toast before heading out, this suddenly seemed like a very good idea indeed (especially as @jennifercairn was kindly buying – I think she and hubby @anthonymarsh had already ‘warmed up’ with a burger).

It sounded divine – apple and pear tart with an elderflower whipped cream (hope this is right – I’d had a few by then, and this is going to look rather silly if someone pipes up that it was blueberry crumble or something) – and I was not disappointed! A delicate lattice of pastry with a perfect texture was very nicely countered by what I think was boozed-soaked fruit, juicy, sweet and delicious. The elderflower whipped cream was marvellous, and the portion size generous (though I’d happily eat two of them of course). All thoroughly enjoyable and expertly made.
As for the rest of the evening; well, I can’t really remember all that much. What I do recall though, is just how very fine that apple & pear tart was. Next time, perhaps I’ll see how well it matches up with a nip of Port…

We came, we saw, we gathered

I think I can fairly confidently say that the eighth installment of whampgather – the local get together – was the biggest yet. Think over the course of the night we had about 110-115 people through the door of the Priory Tavern.

Big thanks to the Dave Mitchell band – renamed the Priory Tavern All-Stars for the night, for keeping up entertained with their own (very loud) brand of the blues. Also big thanks to Brad & Nicky who tirelessly spent all night selling raffle tickets. We sold 490 raffle tickets, and then Niroch from Ammis Curry popped up with a 4th round FA Cup ticket to auction, which went for £40 and catapulted us over the £500 mark for the night. All the money goes to The Winch – and it was great that Paul Perkins was able to come down and give a quick intro to the charity that evening. (see previous post for a full list of prizes)

There’s really not a lot more for me to say – so I’m just going to post some photos of the whampagther excitement and bid you farewell. The next event of any sort is the West End Lane Books “lock in” on January 31st – keep your eyes peeled on here and on Twitter for more details. The next whampgather will be a few months away – the most reliable way to hear about all these things is to sign up to the mailing list.

 (photos courtesy of Brad)

The Whampgather Story – Vol. 7

Photo via @anthonymarsh

I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that Whampgather VII went quite well. The hyperlocal cocktails went down a storm – we had #whamppunch, Kilburn Mist (my personal favourite), Made of Ale (geddit?) and an SJW with a touch of sparkle. DJ Sid Trotter did an outstanding job – even getting me onto the dancefloor, which as many of you (too many of you) will have realised is not something you want to see every day.

Huge thanks to Lucile and Merlin at the Priory Tavern for making it such a great event. Thanks to everyone who bought raffle tickets – we raised £350 for The Winch, and a lot of that should be credited to Nicky who spent her evening brilliantly badgering you into buying them.

Photo via @gitfinger

Most of all, thanks to all of who you came and made it such a success. We had more #whampgather virgins at this one than we’ve had for a while, which is brilliant. It was great to see everyone mingling and it seems like quite a few friendships were forged on the night.

Photo (c) Lauren Geisler

It’s worth keeping in mind that pretty much every single person at #whampgather (except for the flatmate or friend you might bring with you) has met at a whampevent. I know one or two people understandably felt that this was a big gang of people who already knew each other – and while it’s true that the group of us who have become friends has grown, this is how we all met so everyone recognises the situation.

Enough prolesityzing from me. As always, the best people to tell the story of #whampgather are the people who were there. I could only include a small fraction of the tweets people sent about it, and it’s still a long ol’ Storify. But hopefully it rekindles some memories of a great night.

For more photos, go visit Lauren’s Flickr page, and for a pic of Lauren herself in action scroll to the end! [update: also check out Michael’s excellent pics].

Photo via @gitfinger

Priory Tavern, Belsize Road menu tasting

A couple of weeks ago, a small group of us were guests of Merlin and Lucille – owners of the Priory Tavern on Belsize Road. They had asked us to roadtest their menu, and who were we to say no.*

When the couple took over the pub last year they opted for a fairly straightforward pub menu, but a trip to Vancouver and a restaurant called Meat & Bread prompted a change of direction. With a chef hired from No.5 Cavendish Square, and ingredients sourced from ‘proper’ suppliers, including local outfit Gail’s Bakery, the Priory is striving for something a little different. “The only things that are frozen are the peas, the sorbet and the ice cream,” says Merlin.

We kicked off with some chunky dippers – huge jenga-style bricks of bread and a bowl of gravy, which got the seal of approval from Anthony, our professional northerner.

We also tried a baked camembert, which was suitably fondue-gloopy but needed more bread or something to scoop it out with (and seemed oddly overpriced compared to everything else). It was served with a cranberry and rosehip syrup sauce – a nod to the couple’s impressive mixology pedigree and that impressed Mark. The last of our starters was a rather nice salad with a subtle dressing that lived up to the high standards expected by Tom.

The next round of food was the one most influenced by Meat & Bread. We had a gammon and egg sandwich – the meat was delicious, and this would make a great brunch dish (although Kat wondered whether the chips and the bread might not be overkill). There was also a ribeye steak sandwich in a ciabatta, and a vegetarian sandwich full of amazing chutney and that converted a couple of avowed meat eaters to the delights of vegetarian food. In each case the bread was chunky and delicious, but it does make these very filling sandwiches.

These sandwiches came with “squishable” fries (definitely fries not the sort of chunky chips that one might expect) served in little wire baskets. The sandwiches – in fact everything – is served on chopping boards. It’s fashionable, but is it practical? Lauren was unequivocal: she prefers plates. Certainly anything with a gravy or sauce is not best served on a wooden board and, given the generous servings, it does seem to be an issue. Put to a vote, the majority of us were pro-plate.

After the “meat and bread” dishes came the “meat and veg” plates (or boards). We tried a rosé veal dish and a pork dish served with a variety of well-cooked vegetables. These main courses were good and well-seasoned. If you’re choosing your own food then you get to choose your meat, your veg, and your sauce. The menu changes every couple of days depending on what’s come in.

Our meal closed out with a couple of amazing brownies. “Dish of the day” said Anthony. They were large and excellent (although the melting ice cream rather proved our chopping board point as it ran onto the table).

Much discussion about our meal followed over after-dinner drinks concocted by our hosts. The consensus was that the food had all been very good and very enjoyable. The overall menu was perhaps a little too meat and carbs heavy, with very few light dishes. There’s not much fish on offer and, given the high quality ingredients, there was a suggestion that having a couple of top-notch staples such as sausages and mash would be a good addition. Offering so much choice for constructing a main course probably isn’t necessary – simply letting the chef decide what works well together is enough for most people (and you can always accept substitutions).

So the overall verdict was that the Priory Tavern serves good food that’s well cooked, and you can sense that real care and thought has gone into the offer. Perhaps a few tweaks to the menu could broaden its appeal without damaging the concept and ethos.

The Priory Tavern will host Whampgather VII (Four Worlds Collide) on September 8th – yes, I know it’s not right slap in the middle of West Hampstead, but there’s a good reason we’re having it there. Trust me.

*As regular readers know, we generally do our whampreviews anonymously so, while it was very kind of the Priory Tavern to invite us and provide us with free food, we had also agreed that our opinions wouldn’t be swayed by their generosity.

Photos courtesy of Kat, Lauren and me