London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Freemasons Arms


It was a dark and stormy night. The sensation of falling. Finding yourself naked in a public place. These are three common starts to nightmare scenarios. Our nightmare however, began with us walking through the delightful leafy suburbs of Hampstead on a bright autumnal Sunday afternoon, in search of Sunday lunch: one of life's great pleasures.

In our excitement, we had rang ahead and booked a table for 14 at TheFreemasons Arms for a friend's birthday. We had not visited this venue before, and on arrival, we were impressed by the d├ęcor and well-appointed dining areas. The Freemasons Arms, we agreed, is a very good looking and spacious pub, and the smells emanating from the kitchen really made us salivate.

The menu too looked impressive, with everything you'd hope to see on a Sunday lunch menu plus much more besides, including pasta, steaks, burgers and salads. The roast rib of beef immediately caught our eye, but the pork belly, lamb rump and roast turkey also sounded good.  So far so good… until we gave our orders .

Firstly, we were told that there was no more beef available. Disappointing with at least four of our party opting for this, but understandable, as by 3pm, the most popular roast can run out. We reselected, and ordered again, but in no time at all, the waitress  returned with the news that the lamb was also off the menu. This charade continued repeatedly also for the pork, the tuna (not your typical Sunday roast option) and finally, and most bizarrely, we were told that the kitchen was all out of Yorkshire puddings. Surely, any kitchen without eggs, milk, flour and a person capable of popping down to the corner shop and mixing these into a delicious, fluffy trimming, is not worthy of the name?

Now, we understand that kitchens do run out of specific dishes from time to time. It’s a fact of life and something that will always happen. However, if a group of 14 has booked far in advance, this should not take the venue by surprise and perhaps more steps should have been taken to ensure an adequate supply of ingredients. Also, while we are reluctant to criticise the waiting staff, if the absence of dishes is announced up front, it makes the ordering process much smoother than the farce of repeatedly ordering dishes that were not available.

You may think, this was just an unfortunate set of circumstances, but the final straw was that a dish of vegetables never appeared and the condiments we requested never transpired.

This litany of catastrophe helped to create one of the most farcical meals we have had. The meals that arrived were average, not bad, but nowhere near enough to make up for the errors or entice us back to give the restaurant a second chance. Perhaps we caught them on a particularly bad day. Maybe they're usually brilliant and flawless and serve the best roast beef in North London, but we'll never know because unfortunately we won't be going back.

However, in their defence we must point out that The Freemasons Arms does make a delicious bloody Mary. The perfect balance of spicy Tabasco, Worcester sauce and tomato juice with vodka. We could have happily indulged in a fair few of these. If only we'd come for drinks instead of lunch.

32 Downshire Hill, NW3 1NT

Average cost of main course: £13.50
Average cost of glass of wine: £4.50
 Food/drink: 3/5 (good drink, average food)
Value: 3/5
Service: 1/5 (at least they were apologetic)

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