Dine with wine - or even beer!
There's no doubt the County Arms at Wandsworth is a great summer location - on the edge of the Common and with a splendid pub garden.
But we wanted to see if it would warm us up on a winter evening and, for a midweek night, it was certainly busier than I was anticipating.
Although the garden was off our radar on a freezing January night, the elegant conservatory dining room looked a pleasant place to dine and chat with friends.
For easier-going meals, you can also eat in the stylish main bar - with plenty of tables away from the television and more cosy, compartmentalised, areas, if you don't want a distraction.
Now although I was in the pub for a meal, I always like to sample the beer - I suppose I'm a bit of a traditionalist! As it's a Young's pub, I had a half of Young's Bitter (known as "Ordinary" by Young's regulars) and my friend had the Young's Winter Warmer. We supped these as we studied the menu and both were in fine condition.
The menu had five options for the "Dine With Wine" deal, where you get two main meals and a bottle of wine for £20 (if you register and print out a voucher from here by February 24). There were also six starters on offer - ranging from soup with rustic bread at £4.95 to spiced duck breast, baby leaves, walnut and raspberry vinaigrette at £7.25.
Aside from the "Dine With Wine" main courses, there were five others on the menu - including a tempting-sounding sea bass fillet with crab croquettes, charred chicory and tarragon butter sauce for £13.75.
I picked the wild mushroom spaghetti, with balsamic dressing and parmesan from the "Dine With Wine" menu, while my friend went for beer-battered fish, with chunky chips and mushy peas. We also had a bottle of Le Sanglier de la Montagne Grenache Blanc wine (12.5%), which seemed to go down well.
The meals came promptly enough - I'd barely noticed we'd waited for them while we chatted. The fish looked particularly good on the plate and was certainly a generous size. When my friend cut into it, she said it was an excellent fillet.
My spaghetti was also a big plateful and I was pleased that the wild mushrooms really were that - sometimes you can be disappointed by the type and quantity of mushrooms mentioned in a dish. These didn't let me down!
The County Arms also does side dishes for £3, including salads, fries and chips. But we had plenty on our plates without the need for extras.
In the interests of completeness, I thought I'd squeeze in a dessert. The menu included various ice creams and sorbets, and I opted for a Raspberry crush sorbet (£4.50). This was really zesty and perhaps not best for a winter's evening, but it left a lingering fruity taste in my mouth.
As we ate, the pub did become busier - both with people in for drinks only, a handful of people on the comfy-looking sofas watching a live football match (they didn't disturb us at all) and other diners. It added to the pleasant atmosphere, helped by the subdued lighting, and with the efficiency of the staff helping our evening go smoothly.
It's a dog-friendly pub and, as we left, we got chatting to a group of people with their dog. It made me realise that its Trinity Road location makes it the perfect winter retreat after a bracing walk on the Common. While the "Dine With Wine" offer runs until February 24, now is the time to try it out.
January 25, 2011