The seasonal British restaurant is perfect for lunchtime luxury.
Tucked off the side of Balham’s busy public transport junction, where the underground collides with South West Rail’s train network, Lamberts, a seasonal British restaurant with a twist to every bite, sits in serene silence. SWL’s Joe Short does lunch…
More often than not lunch falls into two categories: either a quick bite to eat between meetings at work, or an opulent celebration of someone’s birthday.
Well, lunch should have a third category – enjoyable for no particular occasion. We should all be allowed a decadent Friday afternoon once in a while and thankfully Lamberts caters for this necessity with their 12:30-14:30 menu.
The noticeable thing when entering Lamberts’ glorious French-windowed frontage is its atmosphere. You descend from Balham’s noisy rail junction into a sealed casement of serenity. It’s like being in a BMW advert when the driver shuts his car door and suddenly all is quiet – only here you are massaged by the peaceful background tones of music and chatter and not an inane voiceover telling you about warranties.
We are greeted by Stéphane, Lamberts’ head waiter, and shown through the long, modestly decorated dining hall to our table, of which two bowled wine glasses sit and sparkle with excitement. Lunch should always include wine.
We began our meal with English sparkling wine to freshen the taste buds, before starters of pork brawn and Stichelton & walnut tart arrived. Now, usually in established, up-market restaurants starters can be a bit of a risk if you want something with an inkling of mass to it. Too often it is comprised of a pot of meat, a pickle and a biscuit.
Well, my potted brawn, piccalilli and sliced toast certainly looked measly on the menu but boy did it pack a punch in flavour and filling. The brawn was an unexpected treat – a compact pot of pork and nuts subtly herbed. Although the intensity of the viscous piccalilli rather hampered much of the brawn’s taste, its texture was enough to tick the box as I waited for my mains.
Meanwhile, across the table was an already empty plate that once stood a tart. I succeeded in pinching a couple of mouthfuls of the Stichelton et al and the texture of the pastry made me quite jealous of my meaty beginning.
Now, as impressed as we both were with the starters, the mains really proved eye openers. Quite often people will advise that you must do something: you must watch Breaking Bad; oh you must read the new issue of Take a Break; I can’t believe you’ve never been hitchhiking in Thailand.
All these musts are very annoying, but actually I’m going to join the party on this one. If you’re going to Lamberts, you absolutely MUST try the hake.
The hake on spinach is Lamberts’ special. What makes the dish so appealing is not simply the perfection of the salty hake fillet, but half-mashed potatoes lurking below. The result is a chopped baby potato base with buttered spud filling, almost like a muffin with nice, tick blueberries baulked inside, supporting the delicate fish.
As I devoured the hake drizzled in sweet chive butter sauce, my +1 attacked Lamberts’ squash ravioli with wild mushrooms. When done right, vegetarian dishes can be the hidden gem in a menu and this certainly proved to be so, with the mushrooms infiltrating the delicate balance of squash and sage nut butter with each mouthful.
We were both fairly full at this point and satiated with our lunchtime outing. If you’re heading back to the office then this is a good time to turn and depart, but if you’re chasing a lazy afternoon then it’s worth ordering Lamberts’ slightly uninspiring yet more than passable cheese selection to accompany a coffee.
Transforming your lunchtime tastes couldn’t be simpler and, although it may set you back £30-£40 (including wine), it’s worth considering how much pleasure you’ll get compared to a Sainsbury’s meal deal.
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