There was a time, not too long ago, when you didn’t go to East London pubs. Earthy, or ‘rough and ready’, is how they might euphemistically have been described. Outright violent is another way, especially the further out from London you got.
A couple of years ago, the Princess of Wales would have had a similar description. Despite its gorgeous riverside location, it seems the Princess of Wales was stuck in a different era. And judging by some of the online reviews, not a very nice one.
Fortunately a lot can change in a short time in London, and following a revamp from the Geronimo Inns gang, and the introduction of a new menu, the Princess of Wales has been injected with a new lease on life. Although you might not think so when you approach it on a winter’s evening.
The exterior of the pub looks rather downbeat and distressed, and not in a designer way. The punters playing darts at the front of the pub made me think for a moment that the taxi had dropped us off at the wrong place. However, when you go inside, the superb but subtle makeover becomes apparent. The PR points out the light pastel colour palette, which has been carefully selected to compliment a variety of delicate panelling details. The browns, oranges and greys, work well with the natural arches and Victorian styling of the interiors. What really lifts the pub, however, are the locally sourced pieces from Clapton. Gorgeous lampshades and a whole host of other items straight out of a mid-century vintage shop complement rather then clash with the space. It still feels like a pub, rather than an overly designed space, littered with items to lend it authenticity. My personal favourite was the vintage typewriter.
The menu is simple and fairly priced, with starters around the £6 mark, and mains ranging from a £10 to £16. We started with the deep fried whitebait and grilled black tailed prawns with garlic butter. The servings were generous, and the whitebait in particular was superb. For mains, the Northerner stuck to her roots and ordered liver, bacon and bubble and squeak. Deep and rich liver was nicely cooked, with generous portions of bubble and bacon. I went for the venison burger and tripled fried chips. The burger was unusual in texture, and being venison, less meaty than its beef counterparts. The chips were good, solid comfort food. In our reviewers zeal, we had ordered garlic bread as a starter, not appreciating that it would be so big. Pizza-sized, in fact. A light and thin pizza crust with a healthy spread of garlic; it was perfect. Unfortunately it left us struggling for eating capacity. Nevertheless we soldiered on and shared a baked cheesecake. It was cooked perfectly but alas, the liqueur infusion wasn’t to my taste. We still finished it mind you. We shared a bottle and a half of Margaret River Shiraz, which worked well with the big flavours on offer.
The Princess of Wales is a sensitively revamped pub that combines the best qualities of a modern gastropub with those of an old Victorian boozer under one roof. Don’t believe anyone who says its rough out East.