The recently refurbished Young’s pub The Northcote is a stone’s throw from Clapham Junction.
The almost 140-year-old local sits on the junction of Northcote Road and the burgeoning Battersea Rise, and was the first pub I visited after moving to the area a few years ago.
The old version felt like a Camden gig venue, with a dowdy brown seating area, low lighting and sparsely dotted high tables.
The new model merges dark wood-panelling with urban gastro pub, and tables you can actually have dinner at.
Its convenient location means is still a handy boozers’ pub and even mid-week the bar was two or three deep with white-collar workers buying rounds.
The new layout leaves less space for drinkers to huddle though.
That Wednesday the upstairs room was being used for a book launch which may have added to the crowded feel.
I lingered a while as a helpful bartender scurried into the well-groomed multitude to locate my table, and cleared at least two groups while I guiltily hid behind him.
With these groups not quite beating a retreat and using my table to put their glasses down I was loathe to head to the bar in case I needed to renegotiate.
A stressed looking maître de leaned over and forcefully announced that this table was in fact reserved.
After reassuring him that it was my name in chalk I was glad when reinforcements arrived so I could order a much-anticipated bottle of red.
Taking our time over the first couple of glasses we were already requesting a second bottle when we ordered dinner.
An hour later the maître de reappeared in a very different mood, greasing the wheels by offering us a free bottle to compensate for the long wait.
He explained with much fanfare how he had selected the 2017 plonk especially.
My smoked mackerel salad was tasty, not overly fishy and with a nicely balanced but sweetly acidic vinaigrette.
A star saucier must have been in the kitchen as my friend’s burrata and tomatoes, which was a good sized starter that she had as a main, also praised the dressing that had been missing when she ate it at another Young’s pub.
I was jealous of my other friend’s glazed ham-hock pie which he clearly enjoyed, letting me sample only a sliver of the scrummy pastry.
Our waiter then insisted we tried the patron café he was holding, a coffee flavoured tequila, telling us he would be insulted if we didn’t.
To ensure there were no hard feelings we graciously accepted this peace offering.
Buzzing on the thrill that there is a tequila that doesn’t taste like tequila I managed to find myself at the book launch upstairs instead of in the toilet after helping a polite organiser carry chairs upstairs.
Taking a chance to catch my breath I admired the common room from behind the signing table.
Self-conscious literary types wearing natty suits and jaunty berets looked anything but relaxed in the pub’s advertised ‘plush velvet armchairs.’
The good-sized party-space looked ideal for a lazy Sunday.
I returned to a gigantic apple crumble that replaced an unavailable mille feuille and a mysterious pudding chosen for being warm chocolate and other ingredients we deemed less important.
We could easily have eaten one of the delicious puddings each while the crumble was apt autumnal fare, lightly spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Mid-mouthful, my friend winced as he spotted our waiter back with the same bottle of black spirit.
The Northcote remains very much a boozers pub.