The Mall Tavern has been in its current ownership for about a year now, with chef Jesse Dunford Wood, who trained at assorted establishments including Gidleigh Park and Marque in Sydney, was a sous chef at Kensington Place and was recently involved with the Dean Street Town House. The menu is gloriously retro British, with Chicken Kiev and Arctic Roll amongst the choices.
On my second visit here both the pork pie and the smoked salmon were again excellent. Slow cooked chicken was carefully cooked, but despite some use of herbs it needed something more to really lift the dish. However "Cornish pasty", actually using a corn filling, was a clever touch, and nicely made. Cheesecake was pleasant though a "Battenburg" ice cream cake was served too cold. Service was friendly, though I wish they would either increase the lighting levels in the evening or use a bigger font on the menu and wine list, or provide a torch. I guess I am not the typical target demographic, but quite apart from the practicalities I would like to actually see the food.
The notes below are from my first visit, in July 2011.
The short (43 choice) wine list started at £16.50. Selections included Calbuco Semillon/Chardonnay 2009 at £18.50 for a wine that retails for around £6, Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris 2010 at £32 for a wine that costs £10 to buy in the shops, up to Pillot Chassagne Montrachet 2007 at £75 for a wine that will set you back £33 to buy. We drank Rippon Pinot Noir at £67.50 compared to a retail price of around £23. The soda bread was made from scratch, with several batches made each day, so was palpably fresh. It was also very good, having plenty of flavour but not overly dense in texture as soda bread can sometimes be (6/10).
I had pork pie with piccalilli (£6.50), the latter made from scratch and the former made using Gloucester Old Spot pork. The pork had good flavour, the pastry was good and the jelly was fine – lovely (4/10). My wife had artichoke soup (£3.50) served (ironically?) in a Prince William/Kate Middleton mug. The soup had very good flavour but should have been sieved a bit more, as there were a few strands of artichoke remaining; however the taste is the main thing (4/10).
Smoked salmon (£8.50) is not something bought in from a supplier, but salmon that is actually smoked on the premises (on the roof to be precise). The salmon actually comes from the fish shop attached to nearby Kensington Place, and they provide the smoked version back to the fish shop, if you want to try it. It was really good, having a real hint of smoke without being overpowering, and the salmon had much more flavour than is so often found these days (6/10 might be a mean score).
Sea bass (£14.50) was grilled and served with a salad including tasty English Heritage tomatoes and some particularly nice fennel (5/10). I had Chicken Kiev (£13), served on a bed of excellent hash brown potato and coleslaw; the garlic butter inside could have melted a tad more but it all tasted great (5/10). Desserts didn’t quite keep up the momentum. A deconstructed Yorkshire rhubarb cheesecake (£4.50) didn’t have enough rhubarb taste for me, nor a good “base” (3/10), whilst warm almond cake (£5.50) with caramel custard was a little dry, though tasted of almond (3/10). The bill came to £72 with one of the better bottles of wine on the list, and a glass of dessert wine. Overall I thought this was a wonderfully enjoyable meal: tasty food that does not take itself too seriously. I am looking forward to returning.