6 March 2009
The Dartmouth Arms is a pub where on a weekend morning you can take a newspaper and sit in comfortable armchairs with a good beer or a coffee in the front bars and while away an hour or two.
In the larger back bar, though, you will find an open kitchen with sturdy tables and chairs set up for fine dining.
I and my eating partner were taken to a corner table, not to be kept out of the way but to afford us an excellent view of our surroundings. High, probably Victorian, ceilings with a large, well-designed skylight that I'm sure, at lunch services, adds to viewing the artwork that adorns the walls.
It is all nicely casual with friendly staff, and a good atmosphere that dispenses with background music, so allowing conversation. The clientele on Friday night were made up of couples of varying generations and small groups of 30-something girls catching up.
Menus were brought as was a really good wine list. Good because it had wines that suited special occasions at special occasion prices, and wines that suited everyday dining. We opted for a La Flor Sauvignon from Argentina at the middle of the scale, whose crisp citrus tones complemented our fish and white meat dishes.
The Dartmouth Arms has a menu that can flummox almost anyone.
Not with complicated, new-speak descriptions (drizzled, crushed, hand-dived) but with plain English selections that are difficult to choose between.
I could have quite easily had five of the starters and died happy. I wanted the devilled kidneys and the home cured beef and the trout and the sardines and eventually opted for the smoked haddock tart.
And that tart was good. Nice, crumbly pastry, and creamy haddock. My partner had the smoked trout beignets with chilli jam, which seems to be all the rage with fish these days. Half-a-dozen walnut whip shaped trout mousse pieces would have been a little too rich for me but no problem for this lady.
The three cooking staff appeared very calm as they went about their business, no TV chef histrionics à la Gordon Ramsay, just people knowing what to do and when to do it. Even when the place was at its busiest there was an air of serenity in the kitchen.
Next up was scallops with cauliflower puree for the pescivore, while this carnivore went for the Gloucester Old Spot with braised cannellini beans. That pig did not die in vain. That porker brought a little bit of Heaven to Forest Hill. I immediately polished off half of the crispy crackling knowing full well how naughty it is.
I was shameless, I wanted to ask for a doggy bag to take home the other half but was warned against it. With a look. No contest, the crackling stayed.
The rest of the meat, which covered most of the plate, was moist and luscious and went down a treat with the beans and herb mash. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again.
A taste of the scallops was a delight. Cooked just right with a good caramelised glaze on the edges. As with the starters there are mains to please all pockets, ranging from £8.95 to £16.25.
Against all my beliefs I had to leave a little of Old Spot and some mash in order to leave room for dessert.
I could already feel a tightening around the chest just picturing the Mocha Tart with Crème Fráiche I had picked out in my mind earlier, and on the other side of the table Crème Brûlée was always going to be the one: 'It's my favourite dessert of all time,' she sighed and this version consolidated that philosophy.
The Dartmouth Arms is there for a good blow out to celebrate or a quiet meal out when you don't fancy cooking. Two people could quite easily dine well there for under £40.
There are good 2/3 course deals to be had during the week and they recommend booking at weekends. It is easy to see why it is busy as there is nothing to say against it.
The Dartmouth Arms,
7 Dartmouth Road,
(50 Yards from Forest Hill Station)
0208 488 3117
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale