The Palmerston is a gastropub on Lordship Lane, the main artery of my manor, East Dulwich. We usually end up passing it by, firstly because we love our solid local, Franklins and secondly because we have vague memories of me moaning that the Palmerston was a rip off. Feeling all delirious and happy with the sunshine however, we decided to give the place a chance – brimming with excitement at the prospect of a leisurely Sunday lunching and plenty of cold beers.The whole way there I couldn’t think of anything else but crab and crossed my fingers it would be on the menu as nothing but the king of crustaceans would satisfy my belly.
While perusing the menu, cold beers in hands, we praised the pub for its airy, modern feel (quite an achievement considering the wood panelled walls) and felt rather pleased with ourselves for deciding to try the place – even more so with the arrival of excellent, crusty bread and soft butter. I was overjoyed to spot crab amongst the starters although my heart sank a bit at the decison to give it a Thai dressing – I was after something more unadorned and unashamedly crabby. Still, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and ordered it, willing them to prove me wrong.
When it arrived however, my heart sank even further. For £8, I wasn’t expecting a whole crab but seriously, the thing was basically a canape. A teeny weeny pile of white meat arrived (a bit of brown wouldn’t hurt either), swimming in a pool of dressing, which I suspected would completely overwhelm the measly offering and I was right. The crab was merely a texture awash with the strong flavours of chilli, lime and coriander. I am not exaggerating when I say you couldn’t taste it even slightly.
We had decided to share our starters and so after the sum total of precisely one forkful of crab, I sat back to watch Chris eat the first half of his choice – smoked salmon with bread, capers and red onion. Relatively, this was much better, although they were stingy with the bread and the salmon (it looks a lot bigger in the picture than it really was).
I was in a fishy mood and so for the main event I ordered roast monkfish wrapped in serrano ham with crushed peas and a shellfish sauce and Chris the wood pigeon with lettuce, bacon, peas and summer truffles. The starters were so pathetically proportioned that our stomachs gumbled impatiently for more but alas, we were to wait what Chris estimated as forty minutes (I thought more like thirty) before our mains arrived. When they did finally reach us, my heart went through my flip flops as the dish was set in front of me. Four mean, barely centimetre thick slices, which turned out to be over cooked. The peas were fine but the accompanying shellfish sauce just tasted like a weak, canned cream of tomato soup, with none of the intense shellfish punch I had anticipated. At £17, this dish was an extraordinary rip off.
Chris’s pigeon was cooked well, blushing on the inside and crispy without but somehow they had managed to get the shavings of summer truffle to taste of nothing, perhaps through improper storage. We both agreed that the side order of Jersey Royals was the best thing about the meal – standing out for just being brilliantly, naturally tasty.
At the beginning of the meal I had been convinced we would order some ice cream to share for dessert but when it came down to it, the idea of giving these people any more money when they are clearly stretching the concept of ‘high margin’ to its absolute, unmitigated limit, was actually physically painful for me. Chris argued that it would be more sensible to go over the road to the newsagents and purchase a Snickers ice cream bar, which is exactly what he did after we paid the bill as quickly as possible. The meal came to the bones of £70, which considering we drank beer instead of wine and I was still hungry at the end, leads me to to the very certain conclusion that The Palmerston are, quite frankly, taking the piss.
91 Lordship Lane
0208 693 1629