The Andover Arms is a pub tucked away in a quiet side street in what an estate agent would call Brackenbury Village. The building dates back to at least 1850, and the interior is simply decorated, with bare wood floor and jazz quietly playing in the background.
The short wine list ranged in price from £18 to £70, with a median price of £27 and an average mark up of 2.5 times the retail price, which is distinctly fair by London standards. A few wines omitted the vintages, which was a little confusing. Example labels were Lanark Lane Sauvignon Blanc at £25 compared to a shop price of £14, Devil’s Corner Chardonnay 2010 at £34 for a wine that will set you back £14 retail, and Chatelain Pouilly Fume 2010 at £43 for a bottle that you can find for £15 in the high street. Alternatively you can drink Fullers beer.
Asian style crab cakes (£7.25) with minted yoghurt actually managed plenty of crab flavour, with just a hint of chilli warmth, nicely balanced by the yoghurt (13/20). Stone bass fillet (£14.75) was topped with a crayfish tail pate and rested on a bed of butternut squash with Thai green curry sauce. The fish was carefully cooked, with crisp skin and pleasant flavour. I was always a bit wary of mixing hot and cold things on one plate, and so the crayfish pate seemed slightly superfluous to me. The Thai green curry was not spicy enough, so disappeared into the background rather than enlivening the fish (12/20).
Crème brulee had nice custard, with a crisp caramel top that could have been a touch more delicate. This was served with shortbread biscuits made from scratch that could have had more softer texture, but the overall dish was very pleasant (12/20). Coffee was pleasant, not too bitter.
The bill came to £37 a head with just water to drink. If you shared a modest bottle if wine then a typical all-in bill might come to around £50 or so. The manageress, Vicki, who has run restaurants in the past from Antigua to Greece, was particularly switched-on and welcoming, and greeted several regular customers by name. The Andover Arms is not serving ambitious food, but it cooks what it does well, and this combined with the charming service makes a pleasant change from the PR-hyped gastropubs that are all too common in London these days.