the UK Restaurant and Hotel Zine

Holly Acland took her bloke down to the Coat & Badge in Putney

Although not all pub food is mediocre and not all London restaurants are overpriced, there is some truth in both statements which is why The Coat and Badge in Putney is well worth a visit, if only to prove that the opposite can also be true. Situated just off Putney High Street, the latest addition to the Geronimo Inns string of pubs manages to combine restaurant, bar and traditional pub, offering restaurant-quality food at pub prices.

The pub opened in October after a six-week makeover which successfully shook off any traces of the dingy drinking hole which had characterised the Coat and Badge in its previous life. The only clues we could spot were some rather dubious mint green tiles, interspersed with pink floral bouquets, in the lavatories. We were assured that the tiles had not been preserved for posterity, but rather because future expansion plans were likely to obliterate the lavatories, as they currently exist, entirely.

The decor is strictly pale yellow, with tasteful pictures on the walls and well spaced tables leaving plenty of standing room at the bar. The theme, however, has remained true to the pub's traditional rowing heritage. The Coat and Badge Sculling race dates back to 1890; a list of winners' names adorns the walls as well as an eye catching mural of two rowers and a set of oars.

The evening menu includes a lengthy wine list offering plenty of wines by the glass and a restrained selection of food. After toying with the idea of a smoked chicken and crispy bacon stack on a celeriac roulade (4.95), I opted for goat's cheese and onion tart with a spicy cucumber dressing (4.75). Goat's cheese has a tendency to overpower all other flavours but the sweet, slightly blackened caramelised onions perfectly offset the strength of the cheese.

My partner took manager Christopher Scholey, at his word when he promised that the lobster ravioli in a butter, mushroom and saffron sauce (5.95) was 'to die for'. After devouring the three large ravioli he was left with plenty of sauce which transformed the starter into a fortifying 'soupe de poisson'. The only slight disappointment was a side order of garlic and parmesan cheese which, although very tasty on first bite, was frozen in the middle - naughty.

To accompany the starters we decided to sample a couple of wines by the glass. My partner enjoyed a dry glass of Torres 1998 (Sauvignon Blanc - Chile) declaring that it smelt of freshly strimmed stinging nettles. I wasn't quite like Gilly Goolden in my appraisal of the Ironstone Semillon 1993 (Chardonnay - Australia) which was similarly priced at 2.95 although less dry but very enjoyable.

For the main course, I selected Rib Eye Steak with bourguignonne sauce which was excellent value. At 9.95, I enjoyed a substantial steak loaded with fried bacon strips and swimming in a strongly-flavoured sauce. This was accompanied by a bowl of thin, crunchy fries and a mixed side salad. The steak was tender and I greedily mopped up the sauce with the fries.

My bloke opted for some traditional pub grub - Cumberland sausages, mashed potato and onion gravy at a very reasonable 5.95. However, both our dishes cost about the same if you included a side order of fries and salad, so the steak has to be strongly recommended. Head chef Mark Meier was a little scanty on the onions but the mash was suitably creamy and lump free and the sausages well seasoned. The bloke enjoyed a glass of Chianti Fiorentina 1996 from Italy (2.65) while I selected a lighter Rioja El Coto 1995 at 2.90.

No pub meal would be complete without a sweet and sticky pudding and the bloke predictably opted for the sweetest and stickiest on the list - chocolate brownies with a chocolate sauce (3.45) of which I was offered the smallest mouthful which must be the best endorsement of its taste. A lighter option would have been the tempting-sounding fruit crême brulée but I opted for the cheese platter including oat cakes and spicy apple chutney.

All the dishes were artfully presented in typical restaurant style but there is no escaping the fact that you are in a pub. Most of the patrons were there to enjoy a pint or two and the table behind us kept bursting into song having presumably enjoyed more than a pint or two. Couples who are looking for an authentic restaurant experience complete with deferential waiters and surrounded by the quiet buzz of conversation should head elsewhere. But, what you are assured of at The Coat and Badge is cheerful service, good food and excellent value for money - a combination which can be hard to find in London today.

Holly Acland - December 1998

The Coat and Badge, 8 Lacey Road Putney
London SW15
Tel: 020 8788 4900 Fax: 020 8780 5733

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Dine Online Copyright Clifton Media Associates December 1998, All rights reserved.

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