The Mall Tavern is a pretty happening spot. The Notting Hill corner pub is always booming and has a pretty loyal following. Many friends had told me about their local pub, so I went for dinner to see for myself, but honestly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. The food was mediocre and the menu didn’t even have a lot to get excited about, and the space itself was too dark, too loud, too average. The only bright light was the service, in my opinion. Friendly and accommodating, the staff was good, just not great enough to make it all worth it.
The building itself on the outside is pretty cool. It wraps with a sharply curved one-way street. The somewhat hidden area has an old English vibe, which is a nice change from the busy area of Notting Hill Gate, just one street away. Inside, however, I feel the pub has a bit of an identity crisis. Half pub–minimalist with a walk up bar, pushed together bare tables, cozy eats and casual fare–and half hipster joint with unfinished walls, subway tiles, and bathrooms so dark you don’t know if the bathroom stall itself is a club. The menu tried to be colorful and quirky, like an adult comic book, but I just kept rereading it not really soaking anything in. This was probably because nothing jumped out at me. The one item we all wanted to order, the ribs, was no longer available that evening, so we ordered some basics and hoped for the best.
One friend said the place used to be really good until they “Americanized” the menu. I had no idea what he was referring to because nothing jumped out at me as American, but I looked again at the wings, artichoke dip, mac & cheese offerings and tried to see his point. Once the meals actually came, I decided there was nothing American about the dishes.
I started with the artichoke dip and ordered the burger. I was so disappointed with the artichoke dip, perhaps because I was hoping it would be American-style like my Irish friend had claimed. It wasn’t. Mainly because it was served cold. Not hot, creamy, cheesy and gooey. Just cold and really salty. The mac & cheese was a much better starter so I spent half the time eating my husband’s dish instead. The wings were very unusual. Not my style, a little too soggy, tossed in an all over blue cheese sauce. I prefer a traditional spicy, crispy wing with a nice dip. But they were still tasty.
The burger for my entree was just so-so, but I find that’s London burgers in general. So, after finishing our apps and entrees and starting to understand what my friend meant my missing the mark on American food, we decided to give the place a chance to redeem itself and ordered dessert.
I tried to bring it back to Britain with the sticky toffee pudding and another friend got the “Rolos.” Sticky toffee pudding is amazing and there are plenty of great versions around London. The Mall Tavern, however, does not have one of them. Their take on the classic is a little too spiced and a little too dry. Despite being coated in the sauce, the inside was too dry to be able to mix well when eating. The “Rolos” were just bizarre. Absolutely nothing in common with a Rolo other than the ingredients of chocolate and caramel. Totally different flavors, textures, and consistencies. That one was a misrepresentation and we were all kind of disappointed.
At the end of the night, I took stock of my friend’s experiences. None of us had an outstanding meal, or were all that impressed with our surroundings. It was hard to hear each other in the loud, echoing room, despite how closely we were huddled together. And the desserts totally fell flat. Again, we all thought the servers were nice dudes, but that cannot carry a whole establishment. For this, The Mall Tavern is an unfortunate Don’t.
The Mall Tavern
71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace
London W8 4RU