2 Station Parade, Balham High Road, London, England, SW12 9AZ, United Kingdom

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Lamberts has been in operation since November 2002. Its latest chef is Ryan Lowery, who has worked at La Trompette. Ryan did not trouble us with his presence in the kitchen this evening, but the savoury dishes all seemed to be in safe hands. The dining room is long and thin, in a parade near Balham tube. The room is simply decorated but smart enough, with cream walls decorated with assorted landscapes, a wooden floor but no tablecloths. The menu changes monthly.

On the night of our visit starters were £6 - £8, main courses £15 - £18, side dishes £3 and desserts mostly £6 - £8. The wine list was quite extensive and had surprisingly varying mark-up levels. The list had choices such as Mendoza Pinot Gris 2010 at £21 for a wine that costs around £6, Cigliuti Barbera d’Alba Campass 2007 at £55 for a wine that will set you back about £19 in the shops, while Chateau Le Gay 2001 was a hefty £160 for a wine that can be obtained for £35 retail. We drank the very pleasant Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 2008 at a fair £65 for a wine that costs around £37 to buy. Bread is made from scratch, and was slices of spelt bread with honey and rosemary. This tasted of rosemary but was a little dense in texture (14/20).

Soused mackerel was served with an enjoyable warm potato pancake, cucumber and spring onion. The mackerel was fine, and this was a refreshing starter (14/20). Better still was wild rabbit with Jerusalem artichokes, grain mustard sauce and thyme foam. The rabbit was served both as tender confit and with moist loin of rabbit, as well as a boudin blanc, and the mustard taste worked really well with it. The artichokes also had excellent flavour, and this dish would have been entirely in place at a Michelin starred restaurant (16/20).

Pheasant was roasted and served with butternut squash and a sprout and bacon ragout. The meat, both breast and leg, was tender and moist, and the robust flavours of the sprouts and bacon worked well, offsetting the sweetness of the squash, which could easily have been too much. My only issue was that the dish seemed distinctly under-seasoned, but the technique was excellent (15/20). Plaice was also carefully cooked, with crisp skin and good texture, served with butter poached potatoes (14/20). Spinach on the side was tender, though again some seasoning would not have gone amiss.

Vanilla set custard, honey roast fig and toasted almonds was served in a glass jar that was a little awkward to eat from. The custard lacked much taste, the almond flavour dominating, and this was accompanied by dismal “butter biscuits” that were more like rusks, so hard were they (10/20). Hot chocolate pudding with chestnuts and salted caramel ice cream was a peculiar dessert. It was certainly not a fondant, more a chocolate cake mix, yet with some liquid chocolate sauce poured over the top; the ice cream had been allowed to stand for too long, so melted very quickly (12/20).

The kitchen clearly lacks a pastry chef, which was a shame given the evident quality of the savoury dishes. Service was generally good, though on this busy night attention wandered at times. I managed to drop a fork, and after several attempts to get a replacement eventually wandered over to another table to get one. It was a full course later before anyone noticed. The service star was a waitress called Kim, who seemed very switched on, but I gather is soon to move on; the manageress was polite but seemed to me distinctly lacking in warmth. The bill was a very fair £75 a head given that we had one of the best wines on the list.

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  • Robbie Paterson

    Went to Lamberts last night with some friends who live locally and love it. I must admit we went with high expectations given their enthusiasm and the largely positive review on your website, but the experience was in some ways little short of disastrous, and in others perfectly good! Chosen from the various dishes served to the four of us let's start with the positives : Great bread; a terrifically well-cooked Octopus salad where the tastiest thing was the Octopus itself, always a rarity; beautifully cooked sea bream; excellent rhubarb tarte tatin; delicious and good value wine recommended by nice waiter from the Languedoc. Mild negatives: gnocchi salad which was delicious but the gnocchi was too cold. Was this the temperature at which it was meant to be served? If so, they have to think again about the dish, because gnocchi doesn't work at that temperature, if not then they need to sort their organisation; no wine cooler for the white wine, which was inevitably warm by the end. Negatives: my main course was served far too cold and had to be sent back; a pretty average treacle tart served cold which had not enough flavour and uninspiring pastry (i.e. too heavy); a scallop ravioli accompanying the sea bream which was a spongey, salty oddity in no way tasting of scallop. The disaster: a shin of beef "cooked for seven hours" which was as tough as old boots, utterly tasteless and ultimately inedible. Two of us had this as a main course and both felt the same way - revealingly, a neighbouring diner also eating the shin said she'd had it before and it had been lovely, but that on this occasion it was disappointing. I can only think they'd cooked it at a temperature too low to allow the fibres of the meat to separate and do their thing. Anyway, clearly this was unacceptable but the restaurant were pretty good about it and didn't charge us for the beef. To be brutally honest, I'm not convinced that was sufficient recompense; it would have been unthinkable to have considered charging someone for it, and a further gesture such as a bottle of wine or whatever might have left me more certain that they understood the extent to which they'd ballsed-up. I feel a bit mean suggesting that for the staff were super-friendly and nice, but I'm afraid nice isn't enough - you've got to be switched on, too. Anyway, you'd have to say overall a disappointing experience; I hope it was an aberration.

  • Rohan

    Interesting to hear of your experience with the service. The most recent time I went to Lamberts was for Sunday lunch and had some of the best service I can remember anywhere. Had my parents with me (I was a bit late) and my mum was engaged in conversation about food in an accessible way (not her specialist subject). I think it was the floor manager serving us so perhaps others on the staff haven't followed his lead.