Editor's note: from June 2014 Chris Slaughter has been cooking at Heirloom in Crouch End.
Sands End now has a new head chef in the form of Chris Slaughter, who previously cooked at The Crown near Maidenhead. The style has not really changed, with a menu of appealing British dishes, with now just a little more ambition appearing in places. The wine list had 45 selections, ranging from £15.50 - £72, with a range of countries represented on the list. The average mark-up was a fair 2.5 times retail price, with example wines being Hopler Gruner Weltlinger 2009 at £23 for a wine that you can find in the shops for £9, Planeta Chardonnay 2007 at £45 for a wine that retails at £20, up to a few grander choices such as Chateau Talbot at £69 for a wine you can buy in the shops for £38. I am always interested in wines with modest mark-ups, and splashed out on the lovely Chateau Graud Larose at £72 for a wine that will set you back around £58 retail. Mineral water was £2.60 a bottle.
A starter of pumpkin soup (£5) had good flavour and was well seasoned, with a few caramelised onions; perhaps the stock itself could have been reduced further to give even more intensity, but this was a good soup (13/20). It was accompanied by home-made bread, which always ticks a box for me, showing that the kitchen actually care about this important element of the meal. My starter was crab cassoulet with sea bass (£7.50), an unusual idea. The cassoulet itself was very good, the beans tender, and indeed the piece of (line-caught) sea bass displayed on the top of the cassoulet was properly cooked, itself garnished with fennel. However this seemed to me more two separate dishes stuck together than a coherent whole: the cassoulet on its own would have been fine, the sea bass and fennel would have been fine, but together it didn’t seem quite right (14/20 for good execution, but less for the design of the dish).
We were on firmer ground with fallow deer chop and red cabbage (£16.50), the deer of good quality and cooked carefully, the red cabbage excellent, having just the right texture. On the side was a little hot pot containing lesser cuts of the deer and root vegetables, but again this seemed superfluous to me, and in this case could have been more seasoned (14/20 overall). Cornish brill (£18) was nicely timed, served with Jersualem artichoke, salsify and brown nut butter. The salsify was particularly nicely cooked, and the fish was fine (14/20).
For dessert, a deconstructed cheese cake (£5.50) was served with a strawberry ice cream and some fruit surrounding the biscuit base and filling, and this was entirely pleasant (13/20). Apple crumble (£6) was well made, the apples cooked but not too mushy, the crumble perhaps a little thick in places if I am being picky (14/20). Service was fine, and the bill came to £81 a head, which is unrepresentative due to the costly wine. It would be easily possible to eat here for under £50 a head for three courses with a modest wine. A very enjoyable evening.
What follows are notes from a meal in June 2009.
Sand’s End is tucked away in an unlikely corner of Fulham, vaguely near Parson’s Green at the end of a residential street. The dining area is at one end of the premises, but unlike some gastropubs this still very much feels like a pub. There are no tablecloths, and specials and bar snacks are written up on a blackboard. The table we had was quite low, which may have accounted for the little chairs provided, which felt a little as if we had entered an episode of Land of the Giants.
The current chef (Tom Coleman) has put together an easy-on-the-eye menu of British bar snacks and dishes. Starters are mostly £6 - £8, main courses £12.50 - £16.50, vegetables £3 and desserts are £5.50. The two page wine list is mostly French, but also skirts the New World. It starts at £3.80 a glass. Domain Kotare Sauvignon Blanc was listed at £24.50 for a wine that will cost you about £10 in the shops, while Grand Puy Lacoste 2002 was £55 compared to a retail price of around £22, as examples. Bread is made from scratch, white rolls that were a rather doughy even for me, but at least someone had bothered to make the bread (14/20).
A scotch egg was warm and nicely made, quartered with a hard-boiled centre, pleasant though a long way from the masterpiece at the Harwood Arms but is just £2 (13/20). Goujons of bream had a light batter and served with tartare sauce (14/20). Pork crackling was crisp and tasty, served with Bramley apple sauce (13/20). A tian of crab was pleasant, with decent crab (13/20). My lemon sole was served whole and offered with good peas and a little pancetta; I find lemon sole a rather dull fish, but it was properly cooked, as were the peas (13/20). Bream with crab risotto again had well-timed fish, though the risotto was a bit slushy in texture, and needed more crab flavour in the stock; the chef should take a trip to the Sportsman in Kent to see how this should be done (13/20).
Desserts were mixed. I had a very pleasant lemon parfait with lime jelly and mango coulis (13/20) but Stella’s cherry clafoutis was a bit of train wreck. It did use real cherries, but the texture was nearly liquid, and why pumpkin seeds were added is a mystery that only the chef can solve (10/20). It did not help that I had eaten some stunning cherry clafoutis in Lyon last week, but even so.
Service was extremely good from our well-spoken English waiter. Ignoring the clafoutis, the food here was very pleasant indeed, and certainly a major step up from normal pub food. However, if you were in this area, you have the alternative of the Harwood Arms, and that is not a tricky decision to make.