“ Address: 100 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA „
I had arranged to meet some friends one weekend lunchtime near Holland Park, and The Castle was the pub chosen by the birthday boy for this occasion. It is walking distance from Holland Park tube station (Central Line) and is on an affluent part of London. First impressions weren't great - the shabby sign and scaffolding made this pub look a lot more downmarket that the independent boutique shops that surrounded it.
At 12.15pm on a Saturday lunchtime in early March it was quite empty so we had no problem getting served - a pint of Doombar and a vodka with diet coke cost about £6.60, which I would say is quite reasonable for this part of London. The main part of the pub is quite basic for such a salubrious location - scrubbed dark wooden floors and tables, and padded seats that were starting to show sign of wear and tear (although no rips or extreme damage). The back area is more modern with leather or velvet sofas, trendy padded stools and lower coffee-type tables. As there were going to be six of us, we took one of these tables as there was more room. The tables in the main area were smaller, but probably a better height for eating at.
Once we were all assembled we perused the menu - there is a good value Prix Fixe set menu mid week for £9.95 for three courses, but this was not available on Saturdays. I understand that they do roasts on Sundays. I was quite impressed with the selection and thought they had a good mix of light bites/starters such as Baked camembert (£5.50) or mini pies (£3.50), potato wedges with bacon and cheese or three bean chilli (£4). They also offered two sharing platters, a vegetarian one for £9.95, and a fish and meat one for £12.95.
I was tempted by the spinach and lentil burger, served with skin-on chips, sour cream and salsa for £7.25. You place your order at the bar and tell the bartender/server where you are sitting. At this point, quite a few other people had arrived and were ordering food, so we did find we had a small wait to be served and for our food. When my food came, the server didn't bring any cutlery or ask if we wanted any sauces, so I went to get some. I found the sauces and salt and pepper easily enough and then spotted the server who said he would bring cutlery over. He duly did so; bringing not quite enough for our whole party (so some still had to go off and get some extra forks) and some paper napkins. I realise that this is just a pub and not a 'proper' restaurant, but I don't like having to wait for cutlery and sauces whilst I have my food in front of me getting cold, I much prefer it when servers are a bit more on the ball and bring them together or preferably first. However, having bar staff as waiters too, did mean that they were very busy.
My veggie burger tasted just as it should be, there wasn't a great deal of seasoning in it, but the salsa it was served with helped that, it also came with a hefty slice of tomato and some crisp lettuce, which was quite difficult to eat with the salad in as it tended to slide out if you ate the burger with your hands. The chunky chips were perfectly cooked. Someone else has pork and apple sausages with mash and a balsamic red onion gravy for £8.25 (a cheaper Cumberland option was available), and he enjoyed them. The tomato and olive and falafel flatbread (£4.50 + £1.50 for chips) was a popular choice and very well received. The birthday boy tried the mini pies alongside his wedges. The pies were indeed mini, probably only 4-5cm across, and whilst tasty didn't make a dent in his hunger on their own, and he thought four pies instead of two would have been better (cue chants of "Who ate all the pies?!"). Someone else has the full-size steak, ale and mushroom pie; it was quite large, although most of its height was due to the puffiness of the puff pasty. Once cut into, it was a bit more modest. This was served with mash, carrots and Savoy cabbage and seemed good value overall for £8.50. I think it is worth mentioning that the food is well presented also.
They do a range of desserts that seemed reasonably prices (under £4), but we didn't participate as we found the mains sufficiently filling for a lunchtime. They will also do teas and coffees. I visited the ladies lavatories while I was there. They had two cubicles which were adequately stocked with toilet paper; there was also plenty of liquid soap and a hand dryer. The walls were interesting with a velvet flocked wallpaper design.
I would be happy to eat here again, and recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the area and is looking for somewhere informal to eat. I thought the prices were competitive and the food a step up from typical 'pub grub' menus and of a good standard. Certainly they have no complaints from our corner.
100 Holland Park Avenue
London W11 4UA
Tel: 020 7313 9301