It’s hard to imagine, once you’ve clocked a picture of The Marquess Tavern, how in the nicest possible way such a sore prick of a building could be ‘tucked away’ anywhere. Look at it. It’s like an architectural Godzilla. Not unattractive per se, I just wish marketeers and writers wouldn’t try so hard to romanticise the whereabouts of a boozer as if they’re accessed via a time portal at the top of a fucking Faraway Tree. Admittedly, there are those sited so as to justify a big ‘up’. Then there are those whose location will speak volumes in favour of a return visit – and Canonbury is, as advertised, an ‘idyllic’ neighbourhood – but only after the experience has delivered on a product and service promise.
I arrived there hanging. Utterly. Bent out of shape and bruised after taking hours the previous evening to wend my walloped way the six miles from Balham back to Bermondsey, the last thing I needed was a pint. It’s as well, then, that I only had five. Young’s Bitter, refreshingly cold (-er, arguably, than it might have been) and clean.
What a splendid environment to enjoy them in, too. Spare, spacious and traditional, nothing new but, aesthetically, everything good. The spatial segue from proper pub to white-walled dining room is subtle enough that from one you can feel part of the other, but suitably pronounced that if you prefer a more formal feel you can have it.
They have a signature Sunday menu here at The Marquess comprised of a market-value Fore-Rib-for-however-many plus trimmings. Together, a joint for 4 and a joint for 2 between 5 of us came in at £68. Break it down and you should agree that for meat which is sourced carefully, prepared this well, and portioned as amply, that’s pretty good. I’d question whether there was enough of the other stuff to go around - the clincher being that I missed out on a Yorkshire - and also whether I wouldn’t rather just take delivery of my own complete plateful rather than politely sell myself short on what, if I’m honest, in this condition, I’m invariably rapaciously raring to consume. As I’ve said before the visual impact, joint of beef aside, of a meal reduced and presented in terms of its components can be disappointing. But then I’d engaged with the concept in good faith so I knew what to expect.
Service was dressed-down, very relaxed and more than competent, although the boast of one diminutive dude that he could accurately register an order for 20 without writing it down made me will any subsequent attempt he might make to go wildly wrong. It’s just arrogant, that. And anyway why would you risk it? If he’s not prepared to pack pen and paper, I’m not going to repeat myself. Next time I’m part of a group booking here, well, let’s just let the chips fall where they lay…
Thumbs up to the product offer here, though. All food was demolished, including the amenably put-together kids plates. The wine list is thoughtfully concise and commercial but with points of interest (a Hungarian Pinot Grigio, if you will..) and priced to complement a food offer which, in the main, represents excellent value. The draft beer, as I say, was in belting condition, and a collection of classic and contemporary World shit lines the fridges.
A kick about on Highbury Fields isn’t the way I’d normally opt to digest a large lunch, particularly when factoring in a trip to Upper St’s The Sampler for a thimbleful or two of old vine Volnay. Still, that’s what went down. Sundays are made for routines like this. Whether they’re designed to account for getting subsequently scooshed with your sponsor until late the same evening is a matter open to ongoing debate. An ’Ankle Breaker’ as a delayed digestif ? That’s another. Closed to questioning is whether The Marquess warrants a return. It does, alright?
Thanks to @manne for the on-line tip off. And to Pigsy. Again. And again.x
Photos courtesy of The Marquess Tavern and Fluid London (whoever they might be)