The rear dining room of The Bedford pub.
The Bedford, a sprawling corner pub on Balham’s Bedford Hill, is known for a lot of things. Comedy club. Live music venue. That is, a place where you can see people before they get all famous (Ed Sheeran, say, or Jack Whitehall) then brag to your mates about it. But despite its iconic status, it’s never been that hot on food. Until now.
Relaunched by new owners the Three Cheers Group, the rear dining room – you can also eat in the main bar – has a savvy menu that balances crowd-pleasers (fish and chips, burgers, steak) with the kind of dishes that’ll make you feel trendy (artisanal pasta, Moving Mountains vegan burgers, flatbreads with labneh).
Plenty of what we ate was excellent, but the headline act was the pumpkin ravioli: the bite of the beautifully firm pasta offset by smooth, silky, sweet-savoury innards. On top, the taste of restraint: just butter, pan-fried sage and freshly-grated parmesan. Multi-buy starters (three for £15, five for £25) were also strong. A milky orb of fresh, creamy burrata came flanked by well-chosen tastes and textures: a tangle of moreish aubergine, a pile of golden crumbs, a tangy tomato jam. There was a lovely tapas dish of chorizo, tomato and butter bean stew: peasant food done well. And, having gone on a Sunday, we sampled a roast. The pork, a steal at £14, was terrific: juicy, generous meat, a puffy piece of crackling as big as a grown man’s hand, and pitch-perfect trimmings.
It’s a handsome spot, too: the parquet floor and grand bar offset by eclectic furnishings (framed posters, glittering chandeliers). Proper pub dining rooms – with proper Sunday roasts – are a rare breed. Go soon, before tomorrow’s stars fill it with their entourages.