It was the Monday that the Beast from the East had sidled its way into the British Isles and Nappy Valley was shivering under icy ... Read Feature
If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy a pub quiz. If you’re anything like my dining company aka the Ultimate Rugby Fan (URF,) you’ll not only go to a pub quiz at the drop of a hat, you’ll also spend a fortune on gravity receptive hats to ensure that there are plenty of opportunities.
With this in mind, I pitched the idea of a semi regular pub quiz to NappyValleyNet and since I was attending one with one of their editors at the time the idea was “green lit”, as they say in trendy media circles!
So striking while the iron was hot, just 5 weeks later I sprang into action and suggested to the URF that we mosey on down to The Wandle to sample their Tuesday night quiz wares.
I’ve seen the Wandle go through many changes. When I first lived in the area it was still known as the Sailor Prince and looked like it’d been most recently refurbished in a fit of exuberance at the end of the Boer war.
Pubs put on quizzes to bring punters in on quiet midweek nights (you’ll almost never see one on the weekend) and this one was obviously doing its job. The place was packed but I’d booked ahead and we were seated on a table near the windows opening out to the large garden. It was a lovely late spring evening, still light, not cold but with a touch of freshness to the air. The spring had awakened my appetite and so the URF and I were keen to give the menu careful scrutiny.
This was the first time I’d eaten since the refurb, which had also included a menu update. Previously I’d seen the food as reliable, upscale pub grub. You know the score, homemade burger, Caesar salad with or without chicken breast, sharing platters etc. etc. etc. as Yul Brunner might say.
Now the people who decided what to serve seem to have been channelling their inner Shoreditch with a hipsterish selection of steaks and chops being given pride of place. The rest of the menu was what I’d call “Pub Catering 101”: dishes which have absolutely no relation to each other like fish and chips or macaroni cheese apart from a manager’s belief that they’ll be able to sell them to the public.
The selection disappointing as a result.
Firstly I didn’t feel that the protein heavy theme had been terribly well planned. Many people like me try to kid themselves that eating half a pound of meat is somehow slimming, if you just have it with salad or vegetables. The fact that everything seemed to be accompanied by a hundredweight of carbs strips away even this fig leaf of self-deception. There is also a dearth of vegetarian choices, well I say dearth, lack, shortage, call it what you will, there was one option so not really a choice. This then to me felt like a menu designed more by committee rather than by actual passion for the project.
On such a menu you can always however find something to order. That night I was trying to avoid any further increases in my personal mass as I felt I was at a point where I’d shortly be developing my own gravitational field. Apparently my location was being taken into account when they drew up the local tide tables. With this in mind I ordered the crispy duck salad, much more in hope than expectation. The URF being much more programmatic and sensible just ordered what the hell she wanted, which was on this occasion the Dalston inspired bacon chop with mash and greens.
There’s much I’d like to say about this food, but unfortunately this being a family website I’m sure that most of it wouldn’t be published. To say that my salad was disappointing is rather like saying Mt. Everest is a bit high or the Pacific a little broad. The salad itself was OK, a little flavourless perhaps, but you know composed of all the vegetables and fiddly bits (pomegranate and peanut pieces) that they put on the menu to convince you they’re actually serious about this salad.
Now, what was really disappointing was the main event, the thing that gave the rest of the dish its purpose as a delivery mechanism, the crispy duck. Well for one, it wasn’t crispy which if I was its boss I would have insisted was in its job description. Secondly it appeared to have picked up somewhere along its long journey to my plate a vintage quality, evident in its taste. You know the one of poultry that’s been in fridge about half as long again as optimal and then recooked.
The URF’s bacon chop was scarcely any better. Yes a bacon chop will be salty, but did it need to be as salty as the Atlantic (sorry I’ve picked up a nautical theme here.) The mash was OK, but the wilted greens, didn’t seem so much wilted as slightly anxious, you know that slight feeling you have that there’s a small chance you’ve left the iron on. In this case I have a feeling that the closest they’d got to a stove was to have been told about one in passing.
OK, so you’ve probably noticed that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the food. The quiz itself was good though, run by an independent guy rather than one of the pub quiz companies that are getting everywhere. It has two picture rounds, the first of famous people and then one of movie stills with faces and limbs removed. It also boosts one of the best music intro rounds I’ve come across, a full 10 songs. This leaves a further 50 questions to be asked by the quiz master himself.
Amazingly he manages to get through it all in nearly exactly two hours, quite an achievement. The questions themselves on this occasion were a good mix of the familiar and slightly obscure. Being fans of pub quizzes this played to mine and the URF’s strengths with a couple of questions having been asked elsewhere recently having stuck in our minds (if you must know the answers were Kay Cottee and crash, you now have to think of the questions.)
The Wandle still has one of the best pub gardens in the local area, and some of the most polite and attentive staff. This couple with a great quiz make the Wandle a great choice as a destination on a Tuesday evening, and if they could improve the food a bit of a no brainer for quiz fans. Ah! I also have to mention that very unusually in my experience the quiz is free with a bar tab prize, so it is totally risk free.
So my advice get to this quiz, but perhaps grab something on the way. Till the next time.