The Royal Standard, or Who Kidnapped the Cuckoo?

Vanbrugh Park, SE3

Stuart reminded me over a month ago that the Royal Standard pub has been refurbished (again) and I actually checked it out myself over two weeks ago, such is the backlog of things I need to write about here. I don’t quite know how the more I write, the more intresting things there seem to be to write about. Perhaps these things have always been there – I just never saw it all before…

Stuart thinks that it’s a “great success, no pool tables, leather sofas, nice toilets, low volume/ silent sport and the clientele seems to have improved” and I’m inclined to agree on the whole. The entrance is very swanky now, with its cleaned-up pillars and chequerboard tiles, flanked by bay trees. It looks inviting from the outside – though of course that could have been something to do with the filthy night I went, where the rain lashed against me as I battled my way there and hell, The Old Friends would have looked appealing. No. That’s not fair. It does look great.

Inside, there are plenty of squashy armchairs and funky bench seats with hip coffee tables (one’s made out of what looks like an entire tree root) and modern pendant lights. There are very definite ‘sections’ which makes this large pub not look too cavernous. Some areas are cosier than others – the section near the garden where even on the night I went a couple of brave souls shivered outside with their fags – is full of newspapers and sofas; others have sit-up-tables and at the far end a strange long ‘bar’ with stools acts as a break from a long table where a large party sat the night we went, observed by the glassy eye of a stuffed stag’s head.

We sat underneath a post-modern cuckoo clock, in a corner that though very comfy and sofa-esque, felt ever-so-slightly too bright under the halogen spotlights. Some of them weren’t working, already hanging from their sockets; it must be like the Blackpool Illuminations when they’re all on.

But enough of the decor, and onto the fare. The drinks are about average for the area – £ 2.60 for bitter, around four quid for a glass of ok-ish wine (out of a bottle, I’m relieved to report – I went into a pub in Hampstead, no less, the other day and discovered “red” and “white” wine on tap…)

The food is alright – but I wouldn’t go any further than that. Stuart had the roast and tells me

“I’m afraid it was disappointing as the veg was boiled within an inch of its life and there were no roast pots (criminal!) but apparently they had been let down by their suppliers (I saw the chef coming in with bags from M&S!). Rest of the party had bangers and mash and burger in a gastropub style (meat comes from Sparkes apparently…) other customers said it was good the day before (oh, that old one – TGP) and the staff were very responsive to my complaint.

We were there in the evening. I had hoped they’d still do pizza – it was one of the things about the last refurb that I had enjoyed – but it’s all gone gastropub now. It wasn’t all fabulous value for money – £ 2 for a grand total of six onion rings seems a bit steep to me.

The Thai Chicken Curry was pleasant enough – albeit with a sauce that tasted as though it had come out of a jar (perhaps they’d nipped over to M&S that night too.) It came with a single, giant prawn cracker. Is that hip? I don’t know – I’m just asking. The assembly-line cookery continued with my seared salmon which, if it had been covered with sauce, would have become one of the other options on the menu. It tasted absolutely fine, even if it was accompanied by what was clearly the potatoes left over from the roast at lunchtime, coated in creme fraiche.

The food isn’t bad here. It’s just not wildly exciting. Stuart reminds me that they do wi-fi and fairtrade coffee, which would make it a good place to visit during the day for people with laptops and time on their hands.

The cuckoo clock above us suddenly went absolutely berserk, striking again and again. Heaven knows what time it was. I’m still not sure whether someone had half-inched the cuckoo and it was mourning its loss, or whether the pub is too cool these days to actually have a little plastic bird pop out of a silhouette clock.

Go try it out and see what you think. It’s not going to give The Narrow a run for its money but I understand that the chain that’s bought it ( intends to chuck money at it – and that can’t be a bad thing…

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