While out on New Year’s Eve, I was talking with a friend about how it’s always on me to plan things like restaurant reservations, parties, and social arrangements – and sometimes I wish someone else would take over so that I could enjoy an evening care-free for once. His response? I don’t actually want that: I’d be anxious the whole time about not having control over the situation, and wouldn’t trust anyone else to do as good of a job as I would. It was a bit of an eye-opener, but he was totally right –
…with one exception: Chris. We’ve been great friends for a decade now and – like me – he is a careful and conscientious planner with a similar eye for detail. So when he suggested we go to the Trading House for our long overdue catchup, I didn’t even have to look it up in advance (like I admittedly do with everyone else): all I had to do was relax, show up and enjoy what would surely be a well-planned, lovely evening. (All photography for this particular post have been kindly provided by him).
The moment you walk in to the Trading House, there is a wow factor: the warm wooden decor throughout, the columns, the coffered ceiling, the moose heads, the antique lamps… you feel like you’ve been transported to colonial Britain. Sure, the live Beatles music and the buzzing of bustling bankers seems to counterpose this, at least from an anachronistic perspective, but all these elements have one thing in common: they are all quintessentially British and, so somehow, it just works.
This carries over into into the menus, from the extensive, carefully assembled drinks menu of ales and cocktails to the food: pies, kebabs, fish and chips, burgers and more. We browsed the selection while we sat at our large wooden table and comfortably large wooden chairs, and selected some cocktails and nibbles to start our evening. Aside from the delayed delivery (service was slow as the bar was heaving), my cocktail was delicious; the flavours were all perfectly balanced and, as far as espresso martinis go, this was the best I’d ever had.
When it came to nibbles, we opted for pork crackling, served with apple ketchup on the side. It doesn’t actually sound like much when you read it on the menu.. but when it comes out? I couldn’t have imagined the intensity of the flavour: that crispy, salty deliciousness… and then all presented in a big portion that looked like it could have been a popcorn bowl!
I admit I wasn’t a fan of the apple ketchup: it was just a little too tart for my taste. However, the crackling itself more than makes up for it, and eating it in great company with a perfect espresso martini? It was heavenly.
After much chatting, we eventually got around to ordering our mains. He ordered a classic British dish: the steak and ale pie, served with (of course) mushy peas and chips. It doesn’t really get more British than that.
I went with something a little different: the duck mash. This duck mash was pretty special: that combination of rotisserie duck, sweet potato and red onions flavoured with homemade brown sauce was lovely: it was a delicate dance of sweet and savoury, with that soft texture that just screams ‘comfort food’. The fried duck egg was the perfect topper – especially as I pierced the yolk and that golden gooeyness oozed through the dish. It’s impossible not to salivate at the tempting sight and smell of it all. It felt all so sinfully delicious, so thank goodness it was served with some tenderstem broccoli so I could feel at least a little angelic about it all. And yes, the broccoli was well cooked (albeit unseasoned), with that just-right al dente texture.
I would have loved to have had dessert – they had sticky toffee pudding on the menu! – but with all I had eaten there was simply no way I could fit anything else. That will have to wait for a return visit.
…and I do expect there to be one: it was a pretty great experience. It really is a pretty unique spot in London: good music, good food, central location, unique decor… not many places in the City can tick all those boxes. But like I said before, I knew from the start I was in good hands this evening.
*Calories – what can I say about the calories? We started the meal with the equivalent of 2 cups of pork crackling! There was no accurate way of estimating this but I wouldn’t be surprised if it surpassed 1,200 (and I had two espresso martinis, not one).
Food taste: 4 / 5 (Delicious dish and cocktails: apple ketchup a little too strong and the pie was a touch salty, but that is likely the natural ale flavouring as well)
Food/table presentation: 4 / 5 (Large and spacious table, antique lamp for character, and dishes plated in a very simple but nonetheless appetising way)
Service: 3.5 / 5 (Cordial enough, but on the slow side)
Atmosphere/decor: 4.5 / 5 (The live music and the remarkable interior make an impression and create quite the immersive experience)
Value for money: 4 / 5 (It’s entirely reasonable for finding yourself in the heart of the City of London)
Overall rating: 4 / 5