William Sitwell reviews The Crossing, Barnes: ‘It made you glad to be alive – a thing of epic wonder’

By admin
March 25, 2022

Parents of young children will feel welcome and safe visiting this neighbourhood pub with a stellar wine list.

The Crossing in Barnes is surely designed with the mothers of young children in mind. The place feels so clean that little Tarquin with his pals Myrtle, Magnolia and Fabian could lick the floor and ingest no bugs or bacteria. For the place is as spic and span as the surrounding environment is leafy. And sure enough, as my lunch progressed, part of the pub filled with mamas and babas. It’s an astute ploy of course. Parents of young children are keen to be out of the house and lurk where they are welcome and feel safe –and if the pub can wow them with an intelligent wine list at night, it could be quids in.

This establishment was surely a reliable local across the decades and a century. But now if you turn up with so much as a little mud on your trouser hem I suspect you might be asked to take a shower before you take your seat.

The design and décor are clean too. A shiny bar, sandblasted bricks around the old fireplaces, pale wooden tables, and chairs that seem more pristine community centre than village pub.

It’s a little at odds with the photograph of the Rolling Stones that hangs over one fireplace: in front of the smoky ruin of an old building in the countryside, the unwashed rock’n’rollers loll about in long grass.

It’s at odds too with the food I ate: rural, rustic and filling. And here I detect the hand of the chef Anthony Demetre, who consults on the menu. He is an exacting and tidy chef who loves butter and cream and the gutsiest food of France. The glorious point being, Mummy and Daddy can get their fill, and sip magnificently, while the little urchins roll around on the floor.

The food offering at The Crossing; pictured, fresh fish dishes with mashed potato and ‘well executed’ medium-rare venison CREDIT: Courtesy of The Crossing

I was there sans enfants, but with my hungry artist pal Jasper. He spotted ‘slow-cooked pork belly’ on the menu and started grunting with excitement. Although his snout was somewhat disappointed when a plate of leaves with tiny slivers of pork arrived. It was mere air for him, wolfed down in seconds, like a greedy spaniel, his eyes darting back to the plate to see if he’d missed something.

I’d ordered better: a delightfully rich and well-balanced plate of lobster bisque. The broth was delicious, but I did wonder about all the large bits floating about in it: a length of leek, a wedge of fennel. Did the chef leave these flavour enhancers in for decoration or was I supposed to eat them? In my view everything on a plate, be it decoration or otherwise, should be edible, unless they be bones. A stewed two-inch length of leek is not a practical eating item. I left it.

My main course was an utterly glorious confit duck, glistening on the plate, with tasty jus, cabbage and lentils. It’s the sort of dish that has that miraculous quality of making one glad to be alive, glad to be a human with taste buds and hunger. Barnes, be grateful for this dish, it really is a thing of epic wonder. Jasper was eating venison, a well-executed haunch and veg. But I felt smugger at my perfect ordering. Which continued with pudding. Yes, Jasper’s tiramisu was excellent, but what of my chocolate soup? The bowl is baking, oven-hot. The liquid chocolate is poured into it and plate raced to the table. With each spoonful the rich soup turns to cake, so if you like the goo you must rush it. Delightful sport. Yes: The Crossing is good, clean fun.

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