Kilburn is an area that has 'form'. By which I mean that its reputation precedes it, and not in a good way. This is because, much like my own stomping ground of Brixton, Kilburn has developed a reputation for being a little bit rough around the edges.
And arguably in the centre. While Brixton is in the full throes of a champagne and fromage-induced gentrification, Kilburn is at the very start of that journey. At least that’s what the very charming manager of The Earl Derby claimed when we popped in for dinner.
Often gentrification starts with a simple pub being upgraded to reflect the new demographic; thus, the Earl Derby is has been given the gastro-makeover to offer locals a good looking pub serving quality food and drink.
It’s a big Victorian boozer that has done well out of its makeover. With an elegant navy and grey interior, reclaimed timber flooring, oak paneling, curved Chesterfield style sofas, soft pendant lighting and some big to point of OTT sized lampshades, the pub manages to be both big and cozy. It was relatively empty the night we dined, something that the nearly 200 cover dining area, accentuates. The punters that were there were of the 'lets check out the new pub' variety, with a mix of hip youngsters, and discerning members of Kilburn’s new middle class.
As it’s a pub, it takes a lot of pride in its drinks, particularly its draught beers such as Camden Brewery Hells Lager and Meantime London Stout, alongside local cask ales and American craft beers. It also has a fairly chunky, if relatively predictable, wine list.
For food, we started with the spicy Scotch egg for me (eggs are the Northerner’s devil food) and the Paris brown, flat and oyster mushrooms on rye toast with Stilton cream. The Scotch was delicious – well-cooked, meat with a crisp crumb casing and a lovely soft egg and the centre. The mushrooms were good, too, with the sharpness of the Stilton cream balancing, but not overpowering, the mushrooms. The latter was a very big starter, though.
For mains we tried the wild salmon fish cakes, lemon creme fraiche, potato wedges, celeriac and apple slaw; and the chicken & ham hock pie with mash and seasonal vegetables. The pie was good, although a the chef was a shade heavy-handed with the salt. The fish cakes were disappointing, as they had been overcooked and were dry, giving them a burger like texture. And a well-done burger, at that.
We shared the salted caramel and chocolate tart with clotted cream for dessert. Salted caramel has been big on menus and in ice cream parlours for the last year or so now, and I have to admit, it’s a food trend that I don’t quite get. Unfortunately, the Earl Derby confirmed my misgivings; the chocolate tart had visible salt flakes sprinkled over (and presumably throughout) the dish. It was too salty and didn’t work.
But it's early days for the Earl Derby, and as with most new places, I’m sure it's finding its feet. It’s a welcome newcomer to the area, and I’m sure a few tweaks in the kitchen will see it find form. Of the good variety.