Tom Parker Bowles: The Pelican review

Tom is delighted to find redemption at a pub that has been pulled back from the brink.

Review: The Pelican

The Pelican, perched on the end of Notting Hill’s All Saints Road, is one of those pubs that never seemed to get it right. I lived pretty much next door, for six years, and barely had a pint. It wasn’t rough, or naff, or dull or grim. Just, on the rare occasions it was actually open, really, really crap.

It started as the ‘derelict’ pub, then became the ‘crack’ pub, the ‘busted’ pub, the ‘boarded-up’ pub, the ‘squatter’ pub, the ‘organic’ pub, then the ‘empty’ pub once more. We moved away. And still it sat, lonely and unloved, not so much gliding seabird as great white pachyderm. News, then, of its reopening a few months back hardly filled me with hope.

the pelican
The Pelican’s daily specials offer ‘carnivorous delight’. Image: @thepelicanW11

Sure, there’s the expensive facelift, all buttery leather banquettes, gleaming mirrors and a terse, St John-esque menu. Good luck, I thought. You’d have more chance of opening a ’Spoons in Clarence House than making this particular Pelican fly. But then friends began to sing its praises. And we were passing one night and thought, go on, what the hell.

The place does look a lot better. Well, from what I can see, as we fight through a heaving scrum of ironic ’taches and asymmetric haircuts. But a mirror, proclaiming the day’s specials, has a ‘Stew/Mince’ section. Which makes me happy. Especially as it’s ‘mince on toast’, in what seems to be a nod to the great Quality Chop House.

And what mince it is, richer than a Ladbroke Grove trustie – more sumptuous ragù than those greasy, gristly pellets we once forced down at school – slopped on a slab of sourdough beneath a flurry of Parmesan cheese. There’s more carnivorous delight with a splodge of ‘raw beef’, mixed with the anchovy-addled charms of Gentleman’s Relish. Oh, and some crinkle-cut crisps with which to scoop it up.

Ham hock, deep fried in a macho wedge, is all soft, salty succulence, served with pickled red onion and a mess of splendid egg salad. Like a great British picnic, without the pitter-patter of rain on car roof and the drone of the A303. A butter lettuce salad is billowy in all the right ways, slicked with a sharp dressing, while trout, usually so overcooked, comes pink as a curate’s blush. It’s all so very English, but in the best possible way. Long may this Pelican soar.

About £30 per head. The Pelican, 45 All Saints Road, London W11; thepelicanw11.com