There’s nothing stock about the well-priced lunch menu in Wandsworth’s Ram Quarter.
I remember when Ram Quarter was still the Ram Brewery, an anachronism even back then. A working major brewery since around 1857.
Like other Wandsworth residents, I’d get a bit annoyed when stuck behind the old horse drawn drays delivering beer to local Young’s pubs. But they were such a lovely sight you couldn’t be angry for long.
But of course it couldn’t last, the site was impractical, Youngs moved on in 2006 to make way for towering, and no doubt toweringly expensive, flats built where the main yard used to be.
But it’s been done well, most of the original buildings have been cleaned, preserved and repurposed; one for example is to become a microbrewery to keep local tradition alive.
Off one of the courtyards is London Stock. It has a terrace that would look even better were it not raining so hard today.Inside is attractive a feast of genuine bare brick walls, iron pillars and wooden beams backdropping tasteful modern furniture.
Social distancing has been done correctly, but discreetly so there is no real sense of it, and elegant sanitising gel dispensers sit on every table. The new normal.
We’re here for lunch, which is a rather worrying £30 for three dishes. Worryingly cheap that is. Can it be any good?The menu reassures this cynic by being short, crisp, concise.
Simple choices for each course usually mean a focused kitchen. Beware the big menu.
I focus on sourdough with seaweed butter. The crust is crisp, the bread light and chewy. The butter is like standing on the seashore getting in a deep lungfulls of fresh air. Our hopes for lunch rise like a helium balloon.
I don’t eat much meat, only when eating out, so I want it special when I do. Venison Tartare delivers in a big way. Tartare, even in the best Paris bistros, can be a gloopy mess and I can usually do without the theatre of it being made tableside.
Here the presentation is calm and excellent and there are some clever touches. The egg yolk has been broken up into smaller pieces, so that I can decide just how much egg to mix with each forkful.
The meat is superb and I love the tiny little pyramids of toasted buckwheat that surface now and then to add contrasting crunch to the butter soft meat. Hints of truffle and a blackberry coulis add extra notes.
They have an air curing cabinet in the dining room, and from this comes Scottish Mackerel cooked off and partnered up with green beans blistered off the robata and deliciously dusted with hazelnut pieces.
The plate is also dressed with wafer thin beetroot slices and a beet leaf. Beet leaves should never be thrown away unless very manky. They’re better than spinach.
Having had my meat fix, I now want fish. Brill is a brilliant (sic) meaty fish. Rather like turbot, another flatfish, it holds together well on the grill and can handle determined cooking.
This is very well done, but top marks also go to the pillow-plump and briny mussels, and a cider and butter sauce that I could cheerfully have drunk a pint of.I use the last of the sourdough to scour every last drop from the plate. A tangle of spinach, or possibly chard, adds an iron twang.
A simple wild mushroom risotto lets the flavour of the ceps do all the heavy lifting, as it should. A hint of black truffle accentuates the bosky notes. Using barley, instead of traditional Arborio rice, adds bounce to each bite. Just the dish for a rainy day.
And desserts deliver too. Mille Feuilles is something I enjoy but rarely eat in company. You nearly always end up looking like a toddler at tea party with cream everywhere.
Here it’s deconstructed to make it easy, with delicious cherries accentuated by Kirsch and the pastry delivered in very easy to nibble shards.
Roasted peach could have been a bit more roasted, but the honey, thyme yoghurt and oats all play together nicely, although the yoghurt is still a bit too puckeringly sharp for me.
But what a lunch. Beautifully plated and delicious food with all kinds of twists but no awkward turns. The tasting menus are equally well priced and include a very good-looking vegan/Vegetarian option.
Oh, and apparently brewing is not over. A microbrewery plans to open next to London Stock. Now that will make this cool comer of Wandsworth complete.
But please, no more dray horses.