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It's galling for this rather haughty madam to have to climb down from such a high horse but it looks like my snooty fears about the Wetherspoons' Devonshire House in Crouch End are unfounded.
I invite the matriarch of the Cupcake clan to lunch on Mother's day yesterday and we set off with the children to sample their wares.
On entering the pub we are greeted by the pleasant burble of folks enjoying family time. Clusters of families and groups sitting in comfort around their tables clearly enjoying each other's company.
The second sensation is the smell of the place. Comfortingly savoury, there's a whiff of nostalgia about the space and I'm transported back to the Sunday lunch pub experience of the 1970's (without the suffocating smoke smell) or is it school dinners? (My school dinners incidentally were cracking, and I grew up pleasantly wobbly on their generous portions). Whatever it is, it makes me feel warm and cosy which is just the enthusiastic greeting I need as Daisy Cupcake, the sweetest baby in the world has been a little tripe over the last few nights and I am at my most haggard.
It's full without out seeming rammed and we easily locate a set of inviting armchairs in a corner, with a natural buggy park under the warm glow of a standard lamp.
A quick perusal of the straightforward Sunday lunch menu (served right up to 6pm) confirms astonishing value and I head over to the bar to order.
Despite the huddle of customers waiting to be served, I am acknowledged immediately and greeted with amiable and accommodating warmth in seconds. I order my drinks and meals and ask that my child's roast be delivered without gravy. My requests are enthusiastically taken on board and my dithering over the drinks accepted with a knowing smile rather than bored scorn. I'm directed to the condiments and told my orders will be with me within in ten minutes. Oh joy of joys, for I am ravenous and the children at their most testing.
Drinks dispatched I head back to our enclave where my mother is wrangling with Daisy, who has taken on the persona of an angry pet rabbit; all scrabbling limbs and arched back.
Within seconds Appletise has flooded my lap and Mum's Apple and Mango J20 is dripping off the table. Napkins are sought, children admonished and sympathetic glances from neighbouring diners are exchanged.
Our food as promised, arrives promptly and what a feast we embark upon:
1 roast beef with old school style carvings of tasty meat, carrots, brocolli, peas, crispy roast, almost fondant on the inside potatoes, stuffing balls and lashings of thick, traditional gravy. I say gra-vy, no jus here.
1 roast pork (similar set up to above)
1 child's roast beef (smaller more manageable portion to above, sans gra-vy)
1 Annabel Karmel's Cheesy Pasta (large bowlful) for the baby
Isabelle's kids meal comes with an added special offer of a Happy Monkey banana and strawberry smoothie and a cooled bag of sliced red apple and red grapes.
The consumption of the meal passes in something of a blur; I'm afraid the fevered feeding and frantic floorwalking with my fretful youngest over the last few nights, have rather taken their toll. I'm weary to my marrow and the dull throb of a newly diagnosed slipped disc renders me beat but, the surroundings are snug enough for me to endure these woes.
The toilets are pristine though baby changing facilities weren't sought or needed on this occasion so I can't report back on that facility. There is a vegetarian option, something containing sweet potato or pumpkin and it sounds toothsome but I forget exactly what.
I suppose I should devise some sort of ratings system for reviewing but for now I'll give ambience, service, quality and value a resounding thumbs up.
With the total bill coming to £20.16 for all the above, the Devonshire House should do roaring business and provide a great venue for the denizens of N8 to enjoy a family meal.
My only real criticism was that the front doors kept swinging open and clouds of cigarette smoke billowed inside from the constant gaggle of wheezers outside. We were far enough away from the entrance for this not to be a bother and the staff did rush every time to close the doors to minimise this effect. It has also been incredibly blustery of late which highlighted the problem.
I shall definitely return.
I spent an evening in The Devonshire House on Wednesday. True, I was with a group of like minded people, witty, urbane, charming, civic minded go getters, each in possession of a bottle of green ink and a copy of the Daily Mail, so the excellent company obviously got me off to a good start.
The pub itself had many attractions - chairs, for example, I sat in one with arms that was at just the right height for the table, which in its turn supported both my elbows and my beer in a most convenient fashion. The beer. Many might think the main reason for going to a pub. I am a lapsed drinker. The excellent half (gallon) of porter provided by JDW may lure me back into the fold of regular worship. The round I bought cost £6.23 for 3 pints and a half. Of course I do remember when I could go to the Conservative Club, have eight pints of mild, buy fish and chips on the way home and still have a few groats change from a guinea, but still £6.23 is not bad.
There was nearly an incident with the full size mirror on a back wall on the way to the sparklingly clean gentlemen's lavatory facilities, narrowly averted fortunately.
If I'm allowed out again I may go back.
Another item of good news. Claire Kober wants to turn libraries into community hubs. (That's not the good news) The pub ought to be the hub around which the community revolves, and there was bloke in a tricorn hat sitting in a corner with books for sale. We''l get our own back, we'll turn community hubs into libraries.