04 March 2012
Sipping something chilled on a warm evening at a pavement table inLondon’s West End, I’m people watching while I wait for The Cyclist and The Cricketer. By the time they arrive, the sun is shifting below the roofline of the mews opposite, the air becomes chilly and seats outside this recently refurbished freehouse begin to empty. The Cyclist is hot though so we stay outside long enough for him to sink a glass of Coke while The Cricketer makes a respectable inroad into a pint of Deuchars.
The downstairs bar, oh-so-tasteful with its smooth expanses of pale French oak and tulip wood, has filled up with after-work drinkers and diners, so we carry our drinks up to the first-floor restaurant, in which I’ve reserved a table.
“That coffee table’s an old meat trolley from Smithfield look, wheels,” says The Cricketer, putting his pint down and slouching in vintage leather seating. There are windows at either end of this room plenty of natural light and, more importantly when London heats up, air.
“This menu’s nicely presented, and pub food prices,” he says. “Moreish I mean I want to order half a dozen of those dishes,” says the Cyclist. “What is this place then?”
The Grazing Goat is the fourth refurbishment by Cubitt House, a partnership of fortysomething property developers Stefan Turnbull and Barry Hirst, of Urban Evolution. A parallel pub career began with them tarting up their Belgravia local (now called the Thomas Cubitt) in 2005. Two more followed and were so successful that the Portman Estate (which includes property in Marylebone, the westernmost quarter of Oxford Street and this area around Seymour Street) contacted Cubitt House to bring its Midas touch to an old boozer formerly called the Bricklayers Arms.
Despite the heat, we are talking about Alpine ski lodges over dinner all this pale wood has made me think of those impossibly expensive ones you see in glossy magazines.
“I’m looking for something to go with this,” says the Cricketer, showing me “minted peas and bacon” under side orders. He decides on pan-fried cod with leeks, baby artichokes and lemon butter sauce. Beer-battered fish and chips for the Cyclist and a burger for me with a side of red chard, watercress and fennel. We are full of praise for the lovely staff, quality and presentation of everything. Only my side order which tastes as though two chefs did the salt lets the side down.
“So how many rooms are there?” asks the Cyclist while the Cricketer nips out for a fag. “Six standard doubles with shower room, two on the top floor with a separate bath. I’m on the top floor,” I say.
The last refurb The Orange, in Pimlico has a couple of rooms; this place has eight, so it is more than probable that something larger is on the cards. Which will be no bad thing, because once the others have disappeared to points south, I have a sleigh bed looking over rooftops and a rolltop bath (with salts to put in it) to recline in, free Wi-Fi and plenty of decent tea and coffee in my pale grey domain. It’s quiet, too, until the delivery drivers leave their engines running outside at 7am.
In a heatwave I’d advise staying on a lower floor (and perhaps at the rear). A guest sitting room would be nice, and I wish they’d get some teapots instead of doling out teabags with cups at breakfast, but apart from that, The Grazing Goat gets a big, fat tick.www.