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Breakspear Arms

Breakspear Road South, Ruislip, Uxbridge, London, UB9 6LT, United Kingdom

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The Breakspear Arms in Ruislip is a pub with an interesting name. The current building dates from 1974 and has been in its current gastropub form since 2012. However, the site was named after Nicholas Breakspear who was for five years until his death the only ever English Pope, being in that role from 1154 until 1159 after a church career that took him in 1120 to France and later to St Peters in Rome. His papal title was Pope Adrian IV and in his short but intriguing career gave Ireland as a gift to King Henry II of England. There seems to be no firm connection between this pub site and the English Pope (who was born in Hertfordshire near St Albans) other than the name. The pub website claims that Nicholas Breakspear lived in a building in Harefield that later became the Tudor Breakspear House, a few miles from the site of the current pub. Perhaps he did, but the link between this pub (previously a nightclub) and the papacy seems a little tenuous to me.

The Breakspear Arms serves primarily north Indian food, but also a menu of English pub dishes, and there is even an Indo-Chinese menu just for good measure. It seems that the owners have catholic tastes. This is a large site, seating up to 200 customers at any one time. There is a bar area as you enter, populated by a large Alaskan Malamute called Ben, the pub dog. The restaurant seating is to the left as you walk in, with white tablecloths and well-spaced tables. I wasn’t able to find the names of the three joint head chefs here, though one is apparently from Delhi, one from West Bengal and one from Nepal.

There was a short wine list, though we drank beer. The list started at £19.50 for a house wine, and had only vaguely identified wines such as “Viognier” at £25, so no grower or even country, never mind the vintage. Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut was £70 compared to its retail price of £54. There was a wide selection of beers on draught including Stella Artois at £5.70 a pint.

“Maree chicken” was pieces of chicken on the bone cooked with black pepper; this was harmless enough but the chicken did not have much flavour (11/20). Better were chicken lollipops (at £10.95) which had a pleasant spicy kick (12/20). Papri chaat at £8.95 was decent but came as a very large slab in a tray rather than being presented in a more conventional way (11/20). Garlic mogo (casava) appeared without being ordered, and this was in the harmless category (11/20). Onion bhajia avoided greasiness and was pleasant (12/20). 

Interestingly, the best dishes that I tried were vegetarian. Bhindi is a difficult dish to do well, the okra often ending up slimy. Here it had good texture and flavour, fried with onions and tomato (14/20). A spinach dish was a special of the day and was also excellent, having plenty of spinach flavour nicely lifted by the spices it was cooked with, and its texture was also good (14/20). Aloo gobi was also a success, the texture of the cauliflower and potato pieces still retained and avoided the overcooking that tends to plague this dish in many Indian restaurants (13/20). Methi chicken was quite enjoyable, with fresh rather than dried fenugreek being used (13/20). I preferred this to some slow-cooked lamb, which was tender but rather bland (11/20). Breads, both garlic naan and lachha paratha, were fine (12/20).

Just one dessert on the menu is made in the kitchen and the others are bought in. Gajar halwa (at £4.95) was the one made here and it was quite nice, avoiding the sickly sweetness that can often afflict this dish (12/20). The bill came to £55 per person for a vast amount of food that could be packed up as takeaway, and plenty of beer. Service was friendly, though some sort of misunderstanding meant that all the starters and main dishes were brought at the same time, which was rather odd. The Breakspear Arms was a very pleasant experience, with some particularly good vegetarian dishes that were for me the highlight.

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