The Newman Street Tavern: hit and (mainly) miss
I’ve always been fond of Fitzrovia. Formerly my university stomping ground and latterly, the hood in which I work, in recent years the few blocks north of Oxford Street have really flourised to become a very worthy neighbour to the ever-trendy Soho. With its vibrant range of cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques – not to mention the uber-stylish Sanderson Hotel – Fitzrovia has firmly earned its stripes as a go-to place for the west end’s food lovers and style conscious. In fact, Fitzrovia is arguably home to some of London’s finest restaurants of the moment, including Roka, Hakkasan, Salt Yard, The Riding House Cafe and the less well-known, less pricey, Tsunami.
Sadly though, one area in which Fitzrovia lacks, is its availability of good of pubs. Devoid of gastro-pubs Fitzrovians (as they shall henceforth be known) have but a few options in The One Tun, the Duke of York and the Blue Posts which frankly are only fine if you like cheap beer and have a keen eye for pesky pickpockets.
So when, last year, news that Fitzrovia was to open its first proper gastro-pub in the form of the Newman Street Tavern, locals breathed a welcome sigh of relief. Housed in what was formerly a Ping Pong dim sum restaurant, at the junction of Newman and Goodge Street, the Newman Tavern is a thing of beauty. The décor though formal and elegant, is unpretentious and laid-back, while the old-fashioned floor-sweeping curtain which hangs in the doorway, helps to separate the bustle of the streets outside and the calm of the lounges inside. On last entering the pub, I felt a little like Alice stepping through the looking glass, journeying into a world full of well turned-out ladies and gentleman sipping tasty wine and knocking back Oysters.
Unfortunately though, unlike Alice who went on to enjoy her new-found world, for me, the excitement stopped when I reached the bar.
While the wine menu is decent enough, offering plenty of choice (a special note must go to the Prosecco sold by the glass, which at £5 is both relatively inexpensive and exceedingly tasty), the service and food are quite honestly hit and miss. More miss too really.
There is little wrong with the menu options which offer a good variety of shellfish and meat-based choices but in my experience, not all the food is up to scratch. I’ve tried a few things from roast beef which would more appropriately have been named roast fat with beef flavouring, and the charcuterie salad, which is more lardons mixed with some green leaves served without walnuts, an ingredient though I agree not essential, was explained to me by the head barman as being a ‘key’ component. And so this brings me to my next grumbling: the service, which is always embarrassingly slow. The team are pretty unapologetic for their inability to collect orders; unless you wave to the waiters in some sort of audacious semaphore move, it’s hard to get their attention. While getting the orders right and bringing the food out at the right time seems to be nigh-on impossible. No, I don’t really want a side of chips once I’ve finished my main and starter thanks. I think perhaps, if the bar men invested as much time in serving their clientèle as they did posing behind the bar, they really might be rather good.
I am always happy to give credit where due though, so what I will say is that the Newman Tavern’s fresh shellfish is excellent. The brown shrimps on toast and the Dover crab salad are particularly tasty.
All in all, the Newman Tavern has buckets of potential: it looks good, is well located and it has found a niche in Fitzrovia’s need for gastro-pubs. Sadly though, the pub is far wide of the mark right now. Teething problems perhaps, although after four months I’d really have hoped that things might have improved a little more quickly.
Newman Street Tavern
48 Newman Street
London W1T 1QQ
For reservations telephone 020 3667 1445 or book online