The Scarsdale Tavern
There are some places that should be kept secret. Local haunts that thrive on anonymity, that you only mention to the people you trust not to ruin them and you wouldn’t mind bumping into if they paid a visit. The unassuming backstreet canteen, neighbourhood coffee shop or third-generation bakery that feel like life enhancing discoveries when first you walk through the door.
Unfortunately much as I try, I’m terrible at keeping secrets. I would be an interrogator’s dream. If there’s any sign that an exciting bit of news might be well received, before I know it, it’s out. So while I’m not one to keep your deepest, darkest skeleton in the closet, I am one to divulge a few of my own.
On a quiet, residential square at the wrong end of Kensington High Street you could almost miss The Scarsdale so unassuming is the entrance. Quietly blending into the adjacent terraced houses as it does seems fitting for a pub that is still very much a local.
In the summer colourful hanging baskets tumble over the railings and now in early winter ever-green plants guide you towards the Georgian building and the welcome heat within. As we walked in we spied a blackboard proclaiming the arrival of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau which meant our tipple was chosen for the day.
For once, finding a table among the assortment of mis-matched wooden furniture presented no challenge and we settled down in a cosy corner next to an antique dealer who throughout our stay played host to various punters. He eventually gave up his table to a trio of affable drunks playing a game that seemed low on rules and high on hilarity.
A bustling square bar takes centre stage, the layout allowing you to completely circle around it, passing through the vaguely formal dining area that stretches back to the kitchen. Finding empty tables here (to sit at them you must be eating) is frustrating when so many loyal regulars cram for space on the other side. I’m sure that most of them, given a pew, would naturally indulge in something more substantial than the moreish wasabi peas, pistachio nuts or twiglets currently stoking their appetites.
The blackboard menu spans the realms of pub grub, a step above standard but not in gastro league, with starters of homemade butternut soup, goats cheese salad or chicken liver pate served in generous portions; each a meal in itself. The fishcakes are hearty potatoey stodge, lacking fish and smothered in sauce – they sell out regularly so can’t be all bad. A peculiar, pungent sauce arrives with our salmon fillet and the lamb salad with mint dressing seemed more like Sunday lunch leftovers than an evening meal.
But the Scarsdale is about atmosphere, not fine dining. If you stick to the burgers, steaks, pies or nachos you’re safe; they seldom leave anything but a clean plate behind them. Venture onto the more elaborate main course combinations and love the place as I do, I have to confess there is room for disappointment.
Guest wines, such as the Beaujolais, occasionally appear at the bar as addition to the concise, wallet friendly house list. And tall elegant brown bottles of Aspall’s Suffolk Cider will tempt even the most abstemious visitor.
I reaslie, reading this back, that the Scarsdale sounds like any number of neighbourhood London pubs. I can’t quite put my finger on why it has such strong pulling power – perhaps it’s just because it’s my local and your own local is always unsurpassable.
The only serious complaint is that closing time always comes far too early.
The Scarsdale Tavern
23 Edwardes Square
020 7937 1811