Welcome to our Dining Beyond Zone 1 series of restaurant reviews, dedicated to seeking out quality local places to dine beyond the frenzy of Central London.
Some places just know how to make a good first impression. The Earl Derby which opened up just off Kilburn High Road a little over a week ago is clearly one of them.
Now, we’ll be honest with you. It wasn’t a glance at the menu or even a snifter of ale that helped this gastropub win us over, nor was it the piles of board games or the decadent Victorian surrounds. No, it was the two temporary air conditioning units in the far corners, each dressed up in hats and glasses and named ‘Chas’ and ‘Dave’ respectively.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you head over just to see these two units. In fact, we fear they may even have gone by now in favour of more discreet, permanent ones. There are plenty of other – much more substantial – reasons why we do suggest you drop by, though.
The beer list is one of them. It’s not as huge as some, but it is scattered with some genuinely interesting options – especially in terms of London brews and bottled American numbers. After showing enthusiasm for what was on offer, our waitress brought some samples to our table to talk us through them; she knew what was what, which ones would go with certain dishes, and was keen to let us know that more draught options were coming soon. We could almost get drunk off her excitement, let alone what was in the glasses.
The excitement of the grub wasn’t quite as immediately apparent. For a mere moment we were left unexcited by the predictable pub menu of caesar salad, burgers, cod & chips and the likes, but we ordered all the same. A beef and beetroot hash was different to expected: shredded, slightly salty brisket, mixed through with grated beetroot and crisp potato cubes, topped with a runny-yolked egg. It’s comfort food for the winter months at its best and about as far removed from the corned beef hash that shares its name as is possible. The chicken caesar salad is also impressive, for its discernible taste of anchovy as well as its inclusion of moist, brown thigh-meat in place of oft-used dry breast meat. It seems like these guys do indeed know what they’re doing.
There are few things in life that can be described as rare, fat and beefy and it be a compliment, but in the case of the cheeseburger patty, it most certainly is. Topped with unctuous pulled pork and proper cheddar, and encased in a substantial, slightly glazed bun it has to be up there with some of the best pub burgers we’ve tried. And, by the way, we’ve tried quite a few. Crisp (Mc)fries are a good accomplice. A puff pastry-topped chicken and ham hock pie is comparably much less exciting – and food envy inducing – though well-executed all the same.
A raspberry and peach crumble made a fittingly refreshing end to proceedings on our visit, with a slightly tart apple sorbet cutting through the buttery crumble topping and sweet fruit filling. Justifiably worried that all that fruit sounds a little healthy, we washed it down with a dry and boozy Addlestones cider, as was recommended. Do the same.
Locals rejoice, for along with gastro stalwart Paradise and not-so-old-in-the-tooth Parlour in nearby Kensal, and hip bar Love & Liquor just down the road, The Earl Derby has upped this stretch of north west London’s food and drink credentials once more. Friendly, fairly priced (mains from under a tenner), and full-on foodie, it’s what everyone should want from a neighbourhood joint.
Is it worth a trip from further afield? We’d have to say a resounding probably. If Chas and Dave were still around, we’d be recommending you queue round the block now.