Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Lunch at The Eagle

Despite mentioning the legendary Eagle gastro-pub in Farringdon more than a fair bit on the blog, amazingly, I’ve never actually reviewed it. Which is strange, as I’ve eaten there quite a lot in the past. I’ve been musing on the reason for this omission, and have come to the conclusion it’s because eating at The Eagle consists of pretty much one-dish dining. Lots of big, gutsy, plates of food. No delicate starters, no desserts to speak of. Which makes it a little hard to stretch a post out in the conventional sense.

But, nevertheless it’s one of my favourite places in London to eat. This is the original gastro-pub, the place where the dining revolution started. The battered chairs and tables, the mismatched cutlery and plates, the chalkboard menus above the bar, the unpretentious food that you’ve seen in countless imitators up and down the country, it all began here in 1991. It’s also worth mentioning that The Eagles pedigree is second to none, associated gastro-pubs being the superb Great Queen Street and Anchor & Hope.

Arriving at lunchtime, on a beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon at the start of service, 12:30 on the dot and hoping to grab a table (there’s no booking here, first come, first served being the form). We step through the door into the familiar high ceilinged, battered Victorian pub, flooded with light from the large windows on two sides – a bar running the full length of one side of the room, three quarters of which is taken up with a kitchen directly behind the bar where fat Italian sausages can be seen smoking on the grill, and steaks for The Eagles famous Bife Ana steak sandwich are hissing and spitting as they cook. The chefs and waiters weaving effortlessly around each other in the confined space. The other quarter of the bar is for ordering food and drinks.

It’s packed already, but I spy a small table for two and leap on it. The fantastic smell of grilling meat, garlic and other delights fills the room, and I study the menus chalked above the bar intently. I want the steak sandwich, I’ve had it before and it’s superb…. but too late, a waiter scrubs it from the board before I get the chance – it’s finished already…I look around and it seems like half the diners are munching on steak sandwiches. Cursing, my eyes flick back to the menu board with a new sense of urgency. I can still see the Italian sausages smoking away, on the grill – I know they are gorgeous; they obviously come from the Italian Deli two doors down the street, G. Gazzano & Sons, I’ve bought and cooked them many times at home myself. Today they’re being served with red onion and parsnip mash, Decision made.
‘E’ doesn’t waste anytime and chooses a Bruschetta with Caponota (Sicilian aubergine relish).

Joining the short queue snaking along the bar to order food, I watch the food being cooked feet away, which provokes my stomach into making disgruntled, grumbling noises, it’s my turn – I order and pay for the food and drinks (Pint of Kirin for me…ahhhh lovely Japanese lager)…. and a rather nice White Rioja for ‘E’. I return to the table and wait. Mismatched knives, forks along with a basket of bread and condiments appear…. shortly followed by the food.

‘E’s dish of Bruschetta with Caponata looks incredible, rustic, heaped on toasted bruschetta with rocket scattered on the side. I love the old plate it’s been served on. From the appreciative noises drifting across the table, I deduce that it’s bloody nice…I have a sneaky forkful and have to agree. Lovely.

My trio of fat, grilled Napoli sausages on parsnip mash with red onions is also a great dish of food, no frills, nothing much to look at – but the Italian sausages are thick, meaty and superb. Both dishes being true to The Eagle ethos, simple, intelligent pub grub.

As we eat, dishes are regularly scrubbed from the chalkboards above the bar. By about half past one, most are finished. It occurs to me how well oiled and honed the lunchtime service is, no waste, economical, not many more customers come in after the initial rush (like they could find a spot if they did), lunch is pretty much done in one franticly busy sitting.

Desserts rarely feature on The Eagle menu, apart from rather nice Portuguese custard tarts. In any case, we are now both full, leaving more than happy with a rather nice and relatively inexpensive lunch.

Even after nineteen years, The Eagle is still doing what it’s always done, and very well too. It’s always worth a visit.

Finally, if you fancy re-creating some of the dishes served at The Eagle, as is now almost traditional on this blog - I’ll recommend their cookbook…it’s excellent, one of the best recipe books I own.

The Eagle
159 Farringdon Road

Telephone: 0872 148 4071


PDH said...

Sounds like my kind of gaff! Those sausages look lush.

Anonymous said...

Still haven't been but it is definitely on my list of places to go soon

Graphic Foodie said...

Really have to go here. I love the style of food and their cookbook is now one of my faves.

Dan said...

Paul - the sausages are superb. Proper Italian ones tied up with string. Seriously good.

Mathilde - well worth popping in for lunch, or one evening if your in the neighbourhood. I love how unpretentious and informal it is.

Fran - can't believe I haven't blogged the actual place till now, I've mentioned it enough! Agree totally, love the style of food and the cookbook, you'll have to try and visit soon.

Naomi Knill said...

That caponata looks gorgeous. Veggie options can be such a let down in pubs (and gastro pubs...) but that sounds and looks really tasty.

I see a little trip to Farringdon on my horizon!

E said...

The caponata had almonds in (rather than the usual pine nuts) - SO good. :)

Jonathan said...

Haven't been here and don't have the cookbook. But I really, really want to eat here and get my hands on the recipes. I'll just have to hope the stars are aligned and I find a chance to make it there. In the meantime I'll just have to experience it vicariously through you.

Dan said...

The Ginger Gourmand - 'E' is a veggie *hiss* and loved the caponata, so must be cracking.

E - Almonds,did it? Thanks for the info :)

Jonathan - The cookbook is well worth picking up. More or less everything that's on the menu (and has featured on the menu for years in most cases) is there. It's a superb book if you like rustic unpretentious, tasty 'Mediterranean' pub grub.

Unknown said...

I really have to go here after cooking so much from their cookbook! Your review has really made me think that it is time!

gastrogeek said...

lovely write up, and that cookbook is brilliant isn't it? You've made me want to go and eat there now.