I’m a huge fan of the humble pub. Large selection of beer & wine, friendly service, cosy décor and the fact they all have one thing in common, a sense of community. Pubs are filled with locals and no matter how many times I visit a pub, I get chatting to someone. That rarely happens anywhere else, especially in a clogged up city such as London. The Trafalgar Arms is a pretty pub which sits at one end of Tooting High Street. On the approach, this pub quite literally appears out of nowhere on the bend and it’s so nice looking in fact, that it looks out-of-place in this currently unattractive part of town.
Food wise the menu flicks in and out of pub classics, occasionally dropping in some slightly more exciting dishes which makes stand out from some of the local competition. Head chef here is Robert Velasio who’s done a fantastic job but really needs to keep a closer eye on the kitchen and speed – because almost every dish we ate here was tepid in temperature. It wasn’t a huge issue for me, but for some people it no doubt will be. Our starter of lemon sole fries with tartar sauce was a good start. Thick crispy straws, packed with fleshy white sole and that tartar sauce was legendary. A lovely pub dish. Even better perhaps, though odd served as a starter was the crispy pig cheeks with mushroom sauce, shallot rings and red wine. This was a dish you’d usually find as a main course, so having it as a starter was a nice refreshing change and it tasted fantastic. Those cheeks fell apart at the sight of my fork.
Main courses were still firmly in the solid pub offering range, though again slightly on the luke-warm side. Star dish of our whole evening was this beautifully cooked haunch of venison with chantenay carrots, piccolo parsnips, port jus and parsnip crisps. Everything was incredibly well-seasoned, gravy was rich and the huge chunk of meaty venison was succulent and juicy. A lovely winter warming dish. With a little more precision in the kitchen, The Trafalgar Arms could be really great. The main issue I really had was the lack-of heat of it all, flavors and quality were all here. Bone in rump steak for example, cooked a perfect medium-rare, served on a warm plate – but still managed to retain little heat. Still, that delicious knob of langoustine butter made up for any shortfall in heat, as did the crunchy fries.
For a pub, or a smart one at least – service was notably good and desserts were nice. A solid cheese plate offering with a good spectrum from intensely strong blue, to milky-mild hard cheeses. Thank god someone here has some sense too and served it all with some good bread, I’ve never quite seen the point of crackers. Dessert was recommended to us by our waiter – chocolate cheesecake with a berry compote. Was it outstanding? No. But it certainly satisfied my sweet-tooth and any cravings I had for too much sugar.
The Trafalgar Arms in Tooting is great little local. It’s never going to be the best food you’ve ever eaten or a destination dining experience, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. While the food could do with being served hotter – the menu is honest, very British, hearty and with its fancy new interior, a place you want to be in. For a hearty bite to eat and some good booze – I couldn’t think of a better alternative in Tooting right now.