The Salisbury Tavern closed in the spring of 2010; it will not be missed.
The Salisbury Tavern had a change of ownership in 2008 and underwent a major refurbishment, reopening in December 2008. The dining room part had a blue banquette and mirrors along one wall, wooden floor and no tablecloths. Lighting is good, and there is some natural light from a skylight; overall it seemed to me a smart look. The chef, Adrian Jones, hadn’t cooked in a restaurant kitchen for a while but trained under Gary Rhodes and used to work at Chapter Two. The menu has a number of “small plates” at £2.50 - £9 (we were recommended three of these between two people), mains at £8.50 - £29.95, side dishes at £2.75, and desserts at £5.50.
The wine list was two pages long and is heavily New World, with choices such as Mendoza Terra Organic Malbec 2007 at £22.95 for a wine that costs around £6.50 retail, Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 at £32 for a wine that costs about £7.50 in the shops, and Framingham Pinot Gris at £32.25 for wine that will set you back perhaps £8.50 retail. It is organised by style but needed a proof-reader e.g. “exhuberant” is a typo, not an adjective.
The exotic-sounding “Roosters Beak” was a tomato salsa with toast, a pleasant though rather under-powered salsa that could have benefitted from more chilli bite (almost 11/20). A salad of rocket, salted almonds and artichokes had fresh rocket, though this had no discernable dressing, and almonds that had surprisingly little taste (again, maybe 11/20 if I am kind). Spiced egg and crayfish mayonnaise unfortunately had distinctly overcooked, chewy crayfish (8/20).
For our main course I was recommended the chicken pie. This was made from scratch and clearly had home-made pastry, yet as soon as I cut it open it was clear that the contents were watery, and the chicken turned out to have little taste, the pie needing more seasoning (8/20). Less good even than this was a herb-crusted salmon with Thai spiced cucumber. This was a very thin slice of salmon with a crust that had no obvious herb taste; the fish looked as if it was dried out from its appearance, but in fact was reasonably moist. However I don’t understand why anyone would combine a herb crust with Thai spices conceptually for this dish (8/20). As a side dish, hispi cabbage was watery, while chips were bought-in and were not very crisp and needed seasoning, though they were edible. Mash was runny (8/20). The English mustard, not having had the benefit of the intervention of the kitchen, was for me the best part of the main courses.
Desserts did not improve matters. A chocolate marquise with roast almond ice cream suffered from almonds that had been kept at too high a temperature in the freezer, grainy, tasteless ice cream and soggy almonds (6/20). The milk chocolate truffle was so firm in texture and so attached to the plate that I could lift the entire dish (plate attached) with a fork in the truffle mousse, and even turn it upside down in the air without anything untoward happening (4/20); oddly, given this, the Madeleines were a bit crispy but otherwise quite nice. The restaurant was very quiet on this (admittedly) Monday evening, with just four tables in use as far as I could see. When I asked the couple at the next table “How was your pie?” the response was “Horrid. We are never coming back”. This, I’m afraid, summed up our dinner; a pity, as the refurbishment looks good, and the service was OK. Sadly the food left much to be desired.
What follows are notes from a (happier) meal in July 2001 under a previous team, which are now purely of historic interest.
Half of this place is a conventional pub, the other half dedicated to food. The atmosphere is casual, with lots of trendy twenty something Fulhamites smoking and being generally fashionable, sweety darling. Service was from a friendly, reasonably efficient and very posh-sounding waitress. My taglialini had excellent texture, the pasta having absorbed some taste of fresh herbs as it was cooked; this was served with competent mussels and generally non-chewy prawns (15/20). My wife's starter was much less good, a tarte tatin of onion and goats cheese that had moved beyond caramel to just black on one side, the goats cheese flavour not surviving the process well, and the onion needing something more to rescue it (at best 12/20). We both had excellent salmon fish cakes for main course, the fishcake firm and moist, served on a bed of fairly tender spinach and a simple cream and chive sauce (14/20).
For pudding I ordered the summer pudding, to be told “ah it is just setting – it needs several days to set you know” - really? Perhaps a course in basic catering might come in handy here. My wife had some competent chocolate and toffee ice creams served in biscuit tuiles (13/20). Coffee was very good (15/20). Overall this was a very pleasant experience that is fair value. We had a Meerlust wine from the list, which was a single page of wines printed on the back of the menu. There were lots of New World wines combined with a smattering of French, supplied by Berry Brothers. As well as the usual Australian Chardonnays there were a few up-market offerings e.g. a half bottle of Chateau d’Yquem (very fairly priced) while there was just a Muscat Beaumes de Venise by the glass for dessert. Bread was either a slice of brown or rye, and was very pleasant, though it could have done with a touch more salt. The tatin apart, this was a very enjoyable meal.