|You Can Please All Tastes And Budgets At The Pilot|
As Liz Vercoe discovers
The term gastropub is apparently falling into disuse (except maybe on M&S lambshanks), mainly because so many have given up their pub credentials and turned themselves into restaurants with a few beer taps at the bar. Pity. It was their pubiness that made them so inviting in the first place.
The Pilot on Wellesley Road isn’t making that mistake. Owned by Fullers Brewery, they are as happy to serve you a pint of London Pride and a bar snack as a top-notch three-course meal and at any of their tables. So the whole place has a cheery chattiness.
Invited to try their menu we dropped in for a midweek late lunch (the kitchen is open 12- 3pm and then again 6-10pm). By then the hard working Chiswick Business Park crowd had headed back to their desks leaving us in the company of some businessmen lingering over their red wine, young mums catching up with each other and some late-dining Americans. And it was a really pleasurable experience.
To start with the home-made chicken liver pate that’s served in a dinky kilner jar was smooth and with just the right sweetness. It comes with a tart red onion compote and wedges of toasted bread. Our other first course, pan fried black pudding (so “in” at the moment), fried duck egg and frisee salad was great, too. The egg still soft but perfectly cooked, peppery black pudding, and a mustard grain dressing on the salad that seasoned the whole thing. Either would be a good snack lunch for less than £6.
The house white wine is a South African Chenin Blanc that the Pilot was proud to recommend. And rightly so. One sip and you could almost taste the air of the Western Cape that Coastline wines come from. It’s £15.50 a bottle or £11.10 for a half litre carafe.
A slight false start to one of the main courses (too cool mashed potato) was dealt with smoothly by the supply chef who happened to be on the day we called. (The menu was created by The Pilot’s own chef). My plate of sea trout on a bed of samphire, shrimps and cockles was rapidly re-served. The fish was moist and full of flavour trapped under its lightly crisped skin. The samphire, which often can be very gritty and salty, was silky like minute green beans intermingled with tiny shrimps and cockles. The memory is still lovely to write about. Our other main course was quite different and equally well appreciated. A tender breast of chicken was served on a very hearty stew made from white butter beans and chorizo. From their taste, the beans had been well cooked with plenty of Spanish “salchicha” for flavour, then extra chorizo added to serve.
With a lunch menu offering a “Pilot pie” of the day, beef burger, fish and chips, porcini mushroom ravioli and pork cutlets as well as steak sandwiches (and a fish finger one!) and starters that include goats cheese salad with candied hazelnut, soup of the day, and crayfish and avocado, there’s a pleasing selection that’s short enough for a chef to actually cook rather than reheat and long enough to ring several interesting changes. Different dishes appear in the evenings along with grazing boards and on Sundays, when the lunch kitchen stays open until 5pm, there’s a Sunday roast.
Puddings are of the safe Brownie/Sticky toffee/Ice cream variety, but on a menu with 12 malt whiskys! We settled for Affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice alongside a cup of hot aromatic espresso coffee. Eat how you like. I opted to pour half the coffee over the ice cream and drank the rest.
It’s certainly an easy place to linger and chat. The walls are decorated in muted creams and grey/greens (very Farrow and Ball) and with its scrubbed pine floor and table tops it’s comfortable without being at all imposing. There’s a decked garden for summer offering plenty of outdoor seating.
“You can book a table to eat, or just to drink”, we were told, “but we are a pub so no one minds sharing a table if you don’t. And when anyone books for a Sunday night we do point out that that’s our popular quiz night and it gets pretty excitable!”
Three courses for two with a bottle of house wine, but not service, £56.45