Editor's note: in August 2016 it was announced that the restaurant would close due to a rent hike. A shame.
The Truscott Arms in Maida Vale is set in a large Victorian property, with the main bar downstairs and the dining room upstairs, with a further private dining room available. The pub changed ownership in 2013 and as of late 2014 it gained a new head chef in the form of Aidan McGee. Mr McGee was formerly sous-chef at Launceston Place, and prior to that had worked for several years at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
The main dining room has a high ceiling and well-spaced tables. There was a tasting menu at £49 as well as a full à la carte selection. Three courses were priced at £34. The wine list is worth dwelling on, far more ambitious than one would have any right to expect in a pub. More than 200 wines have been selected from around the world, including bottles from Croatia, Greece and Japan as well as more familiar regions, all with detailed tasting notes. The labels were £19 to £1,400, with a median price of £39 and an average mark-up level of just 2.4 times retail. This is a bargain by London standards, and higher up the list there are bottles that are priced barely at their current market levels. Example wines included Ventolera Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 at £27 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £13, Domaine Chevillon-Chezeaux Nuits-St-George 2009 at £60 compared to a shop price of £40, and Pensees de Lafleur Pomerol 1999 at just £89 for a wine that will set you back £90 at retail. Coravin equipment means a more than usually interesting selection by the glass too. The list is clearly a labour of love by pub owner Andrew Fishwick, a rare find in a city infested with cynically priced, lazy wine lists.
Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen and tonight was a choice of white slices with cumin seeds or brown with hazelnuts. It is always nice to see a kitchen making the effort to make its own bread, and both had good texture (14/20). Roast scallop and pork shoulder came with apple puree, red vein sorrel and cauliflower “textures”. The single scallop was carefully cooked and had some inherent sweetness, and the pork had plenty of flavour, the apple providing a hint of acidity. I am not sure whether the cauliflower really benefitted from being in powder form; this seemed like rather unnecessary culinary gimmickry (13/20). Cornish crab with cucumber soup came with pickled cucumber and radishes. The crab tasted fresh and the light pickling of the cucumber was a nice touch in a simple but well presented dish (13/20).
Halibut was roasted and served with salsify, shrimps, coriander and mango. The fish was properly cooked, the mango an unusual pairing but one that worked well enough (13/20). I slightly preferred guinea fowl with pressed potatoes, pear and game vinaigrette. The bird had reasonable flavour and avoided dryness, the pear went well with it and the potatoes were excellent (14/20).
For dessert, milk chocolate mousse came with caramelised banana and maple ice cream. The flavour combination was reasonable and the texture of the mousse pleasant (13/20). I enjoyed apple caramel terrine with apple puree and salted caramel ice cream. The terrine had very good texture and the salted caramel was an interesting flavour contrast (14/20). Coffee was Brazilian Arabica, from a brand called Capital Coffee in Wimbledon.
Service was excellent, our Hungarian waiter/manager capable and friendly and with topping up of drinks and bread carefully attended to. The bill came to £50 a head, albeit with us bringing our own wine. If you shared a modest bottle from the excellent list then a typical bill per head would be around £65 a head, which seems to me not unreasonable given the level of cooking on display. Overall I enjoyed the Truscott Arms: the food is good, the wine list superb and the staff excellent.