Pub Food Award Produces Much Anticipation

But the reality of lunch leaves diners disappointed

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The City Barge

Eating out in Chiswick


When I discovered that Greene King, who own The City Barge, had won Food Operator of the Year in The Great British Pub Food Awards 2011, I promptly moved the riverside pub to the top of my 'To Review List'.

A large a board outside the pub's entrance promised two main courses for £12 which caused concerned over quality, "but the pub company has just an award for their food," I reasoned so in we went.

The City Barge has been in existence since 1484 when it was called the Navigators Rams. It was given its name in 1777 when the City of London’s navigation committee installed a tollbooth on Oliver’s Island to levy charges on passing craft. This was a wooden structure in the shape of a small castle and a barge was moored alongside, from which the tolls were taken. Much of the pub was destroyed by a parachute mines in 1940 but it was fortunately restored and has had many notable visitors since including the Beatles who filmed the video to ‘Help’ there.

The pub's interior has a pleasant lived in feel with quaint nooks and crannies in which to hide away and a more open dining cum drinking area with the emphasis on the former. River views at one end and car park views to the other; the atmosphere is relaxed and informal.

We struggled to find details of the ‘all day everyday’ offer of two mains for £12 – we eventually discovered details on a small chalk board but weren’t taken with any of the options - so turned our attention to the extensive menu which features sharing platters, gourmet burgers, chef’s favourites, steaks, sandwiches, specials and sides – there is indeed something for everyone. It showed much promise.

We shared a House Combo Platter £8.45 of BBQ chicken skewers, salt and pepper squid, onion rings, garlic ciabatta and nachos to start. The chicken skewers were daubed with a sickly BBQ sauce and the salt and pepper squid was recognisable only by the fact that we could account for all the other items that definitely weren’t squid. The rest of the platter was passable.

Our main courses of British Beef and Ruddles Ale Pie with chive mash, seasonal vegetables and a jug of real pie gravy £8.95 and 8oz sirloin steak with ‘skin-on’ chips, watercress, grilled tomato and a field mushroom £13.95 sounded good on paper but appeared rather different on the plate.

In fairness nowhere did anyone claim the pie was going to home made but it was a disappointment to be presented with half of one that looked like it had come straight out of a foil container. There was no sign of a jug but we decided not to ask for it as the plate was already awash with gravy smothering the mash and veg.

My steak was cooked exactly how I had asked but the quality of the meat cancelled out the care that had evidently been taken to prepare it. The chips were fine.

We did something extremely rare for us and left almost as much on our plates as we ate.

Our first choice of Tierra Rioja £12.95 wasn’t available so we shared a bottle of Chilean Santa Carolina Merlot £9.95.

No complaints about the service which was friendly, helpful and consistently pleasant.

The food award had clearly raised our expectations of The City Barge though whilst we weren’t expecting gourmet, we felt it was a shame not to have had home made. That said we have heard praise from more than one source for their Sunday roasts priced at a very reasonable £7.95.

As grub from a pub that doesn’t declare itself gastro goes it was adequate but in an area flooded with places to eat, including ones with river views, The City Barge really needs to produce food that is more than just okay.

Emma Brophy

April 1, 2011