A Proper Boozer | The Grafton, Kentish Town, London

I can’t remember the last time we had a proper pub dinner. It’s been supper club this and masterclass that (not that we’re complaining). One was long overdue, so when The Grafton (part of the Hippo Inns group) threw open its doors after an extensive re-fit it was just the excuse we needed. Situated on the corner of Prince of Wales Road and Grafton Street in Kentish Town, we were back on Saff’s old home turf and boy was she loving it.

The award winner! Photo: The Grafton

A winner of the prestigious British Pub of the Year award in 2015 it was time The Grafton had a little spruce up. New floor, new commissioned artwork, a new lick of paint and a new cosy seating area – but the layout didn’t change and the pub’s beautiful Victorian features remained untouched.
Upstairs at The Grafton is a not so secret ‘hidden’ bar, with its beautiful tiles and huge floor to ceiling windows that lead out to a roof terrace that, along with ‘boardroom’, is available for private hire.

Up on the roof… Busier in the summer, obviously. Photo: The Grafton

But is wasn’t really roof terrace weather so we got settled in the cozy, softly lit, downstairs bar, ordered a cheeky bottle of 2015 Terre d’Or Shiraz Cabernet and scanned the simple menu.
The Snacks and Sharers section caught our eye. Priced at £5 each or 5 for £22 and a real pick ‘n’ mix of small plate options. Saff liked the sound of the Crispy squid and chorizo, but when it arrived it wasn’t quite what we thought it would be. I hoped that the ‘crispy’ part of the crispy squid would be a crunchy crumb coated affair, like that of the ever popular calamari at Dishoom. But no, it was coated it a thick, heavy donut like batter. That said when eaten with the chorizo it tasted a lot better – then again everything tastes better when eaten with chorizo.
I wanted to try the Macaroni cheese croquettes, I’m a sucker for absolutely anything mac ‘n’ cheese related. But as Saff doesn’t eat cheese, I decided to be a true gent and order something we could share. The Spiced pumpkin pakora got the nod. The Grafton’s Portuguese and Cuban chefs have put their own spin on this Indian dish and their interpretation was pretty damn fine – light and fluffy in texture with a subtle peppery heat and not in the slightest bit greasy.

You’re in the gravy now!

Main course for me was a close run race between the 6 piece boneless chicken thigh bucket with skin on fries, £16 (half price on a Tuesday) and the old school giant Toad in the hole served with champ (£12). The promised Cumberland ring turned out to be two bangers, the champ was missing the spring onion and so was therefore just mash and the small amount of Yorkshire pudding wasn’t quite as giant as envisaged. Not quite toad in hole, more like sausage on a Yorkie. It tasted absolutely fine but the real star of the dish was the rich, glossy gravy – it’s just a shame that the plate was cold.

Like school dinners, but better. Unless you went to Saff’s ‘middle’ school that is.

Talking of old school, that was exactly the style of heavy ceramic dish that Saff’s Lamb shoulder cottage pie (£14) was presented in. The lamb is slow roasted until the meat drops from the bone, topped with creamy mash and served with a little side bowl of peas and baby carrots – proper comfort food.
In between courses the assistant manager chatted to us about The Grafton’s famous Quiz nights where TV’s The Chase‘s 5 superbrain chasers have their own team. They don’t complete against the general public though, that would be unfair, instead they compete against themselves in the ‘board room’ upstairs.

Have they got sticky toffee pudding? Of course they do!

Time for dessert, there wasn’t a printed menu so our waiter rattled through both options (£5 each). I had the obviously home-made ‘Goldilocks’- not too sweet and not too sharp – Raspberry and apple crumble with custard. Saff was left with the huge slice of Sticky toffee pudding, again served with custard. Not the most original of desserts options but great tasting nevertheless.
We finished our meal just as the pianist started playing and before the evening’s entertainment got into full swing. It is obvious that this pub is loved by the locals (the local’s being a real mix of the ‘haves’ and ‘the have nots’) all happily chatting at the bar or across the tables.
Apart from the Snacks and Sharers the menu isn’t particularly adventurous or surprising although it was all cooked very well from scratch – no microwave meals served here. The staff were so friendly, knowledgeable and oh so very chatty that it’s nigh on impossible to leave without a smile on your face to accompany your belly full of classic comfort food.

Find out more here
20 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, NW53LG

Telephone: 0207 482 4466
Email: info@thegraftonnw5.co.uk

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday:12pm – 11pm
Friday – 
Saturday: 12pm – 12am
Sunday: 12pm – 10.30pm

Food times:
Monday – Sunday:12pm – 10pm

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Nearest station: Kentish Town West (2 mins walk) Chalk Farm (11 mins walk)

We ate as guests of The Grafton, this does not affect our review in any way.
We always write with complete honesty.