Review: Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden
May 16, 2019
A day in the 'big smoke' for me is always something to look forward to. TG, not so much. In fact, so much is TG's dislike for London, I am limited to two trips a year with him to the nation's capital - which cannot be carried over to the following year. 'Use them or lose them' is the instruction. Thus, most of my trips to London are carried out alone.
Having 'lost' trips over the past couple of years, in 2019 I am determined to make good use of them and what better way than to go to a show, dinner and a stay in a hotel.
The show: Book of Mormon (excellent, not for the easily offended); hotel: Citizen M (nice hotel, poor climate control); dinner: at Covent Garden's historic Lamb and Flag.
Historic pubs always have such interesting tales to tell, whether it's the basis of the phrase 'cock and bull story' (believed to have come from The Cock and The Bull pubs in Stony Stratford) or the Saracen's Head in Towcester appearing in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers.
The Lamb and Flag is no different. Said to be one of London's most historic pubs, The Lamb and Flag started as The Cooper's Arms in 1772, changing its name in 1833.
The pub became known colloquially as the 'Bucket of Blood' in the early 19th century for hosting bare-knuckle prize fights and Charles Dickens frequented the pub in the same century.
The Lamb and Flag is definitely very popular - there have always been drinkers spilling out onto the street when we have been, even when pubs face their quiet periods.
The decor has a lot of character with bare floorboards, wooden tables, and plenty of atmosphere. It is also a locals' pub as the brass plaques honouring some of the regular customers testify.
Although a drinker's pub, the food menu also sounded rather tasty, with traditional pub food for reasonable prices (for London).
TG and I shared starters: fish goujons and onion rings, standard pub fare. What we weren't expecting was the portion sizes: they were big. And the fact they were actually hot.
They came out, coated in a crispy bronze batter as if they'd gone from the fryer to the bowl and out to the customer with little to no delay. I have to say they were some of the best fish goujons and onion rings I've had: proper thick lumps of fish, perfectly cooked in well-seasoned batter, while the onion rings actually stayed in their batter, not sliding out of their coating once bitten into. I hate a hollow shell of batter where an onion should be.
The accompanying tartar sauce was also very nice. Not usually a fan of this particular condiment I was impressed with the flavour and consistency. An excellent start.
Main course arrived promptly - the service was brilliant given it was just one man on a mission to serve. TG and I were both in a pie mood although I wanted mine with chips not the mash it came with on the menu. Swapping one for the other was no bother though.
We both ordered the steak and ale pie, which as well as the potato came with kale, peas and cabbage. For the pie purists, you'll be pleased to know the pie had a pastry bottom AND a top, pastry which certainly seemed to be handmade, crisp and light. The filling wasn't to be sniffed at either with proper lumps of well-seasoned meat and little filler. The accompanying skin-on chips were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, as they should be. The vegetables were well cooked too - not too hard, not soggy - and nicely seasoned. And the accompanying gravy was thick and tasty.
Despite being full, I convinced myself there was room for dessert (there wasn't). I ordered the Belgian waffles and, although good, it was clear the main courses and the starters were the stars of the show. My stomach sulked at me after I'd overfilled it. It'll get over it - like it always does.
Special mention needs to be given to the waiter who provided excellent service throughout, despite him having to serve a very full dining room on his own.
So if you're on a trip to London's West End and fancy a bite to eat, take the time to visit the Lamb and Flag. Prices are very reasonable for excellent food and service.